Steelers' Woodley insists role shouldn't change
LaMarr Woodley's stare-and-glare response answered the question before he did.
“Part-time player? I don't think so,” Woodley said Wednesday when asked if his playing time might be trimmed to accommodate rookie Jarvis Jones. “The only time I've been a part-time player is due to injuries these past two seasons. Other than that, no, I never have been.”
Still, the former Pro Bowl outside linebacker isn't certain how he will be used beginning Sunday, when the Steelers reveal how they will fit three players — Woodley, Jones and Jason Worilds — into two positions.
In the past, Woodley and James Harrison rarely came off the field, and they rank among the NFL's top 11 in sacks since Woodley's rookie season in 2007. Woodley is 11th with 52.
Harrison is gone, and Woodley's sack production dropped from 131⁄2 in 2009 to four in the last 11⁄2 seasons as he fought hamstring injuries and a high-ankle sprain.
The Steelers are determined to be disruptive and cause turnovers. As coordinator Dick LeBeau said, sacks cause turnovers. And the Steelers liked how Jones, their first-round draft pick, caused them repeatedly during the preseason.
On Tuesday, coach Mike Tomlin said, quite clearly, “Jones is going to play.”
Woodley agreed that Jones should be on the field.
“He's been doing a great job of being around the ball, making some big-time plays and helping the defense,” Woodley said. “Now he's got to continue to do that for the next 16 weeks.”
Worilds had five sacks despite starting only three games in 2012, and he and Woodley will start the opener against Tennessee.
“Everybody's got a role, and my job this week is not to start,” Jones said. “So I've got to come in there and make things happen when I can.”
But when Jones comes in, who goes out? And for how long?
During the third preseason game against Kansas City, Woodley and Worilds started, but after Jones came on the field, he rarely left. And given his recent injury history, the Steelers might want Woodley to take off the occasional series to remain fresh as Jones and Worilds play.
“It hasn't been like that in all the years I've been starting (since 2008), and I don't think it's going to be like that any time soon, but I guess we'll have to see on Sunday,” Woodley said.
Inside linebacker Larry Foote isn't accustomed to seeing much in-game shuffling on the outside.
“Through the past, the outside linebackers, they don't take it too lightly coming out,” Foote said.
Woodley, of course, doesn't want to come out at all, and he knows what he can do if he stays injury-free.
“It's not like I'm a new player in this defense,” Woodley said. “When it's time to go out there and play, I'm going to continue to do what I've always been doing, getting after the quarterbacks, doing a great job against the run. And when I'm dropping into coverage, doing good in my coverage responsibilities.”
To Woodley, it's difficult trying to do all that while playing part-time.
“Everybody knows,” he said, “what I can go out there and do.”
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.
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