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Woodley says he's fine with move to right side despite numbers

| Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, 6:54 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers Jason Worilds sacks Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the fourth quarter Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, at Heinz Field.

The stat sheet suggests that LaMarr Woodley wasn't comfortable shifting from left outside linebacker to the right during Sunday's 34-28 loss to the Miami Dolphins at Heinz Field.

Woodley, who has manned the left side of defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's defense for seven years, had only one tackle and two assists. Woodley, though, insisted the numbers are misleading, in part, because the Dolphins didn't necessarily challenge him.

That also may have been the case in Oakland, where the Raiders denied him a single tackle in the Steelers' 21-18 defeat.

With a few exceptions, Woodley appeared to hold up at right outside linebacker. Predictably, there were a few lapses, including Daniel Thomas' 55-yard run that set up the game-winning touchdown from quarterback Ryan Tannehill to tight end Charles Clay with 2:53 to go.

Woodley, who missed the previous three games with a calf injury, couldn't disengage Clay and was hemmed inside, allowing Thomas to find a seam behind the blocks of Mike Pouncey and Sam Breener. Cornerback William Gay finally chased down Thomas at the Steelers' 16-yard line.

Woodley said he wasn't affected by unfamiliarity or a still-tender calf. Admittedly, he was out of position to make the play.

“The right side is the right side,” Woodley said. “I was just out there playing football. Jason was playing good the way he's been doing and pressuring the quarterback. I don't have a problem with the switch at all.”

On Friday, Worilds seemed somewhat disappointed that he might have to move back to the right side when asked about Woodley's return. Woodley said Sunday he knew would get the start at right outside linebacker ahead of rookie Jarvis Jones.

It would have been difficult for LeBeau to move Worilds, considering he had strung together the most productive minutes of his career while playing Woodley's position.

“I knew I was starting on the right, so that would have been like giving away the game plan if I had admitted that,” Woodley said. “I knew I would be on the right side because Jason has been productive on the left side.

“Why take a guy who has been productive away from the left side? It wouldn't have been right. It would have been a selfish move by me.

“I can make the adjustment. We need to let (Worilds) continue playing the way he's been playing. I can stay on the right. Jason has been doing a great job the last couple of years, but now, he's getting noticed more on the left.

“We can both play both sides, which will give offensive tackles a different look. I wish we could have done this earlier in the year, but it's something to look forward to these next few games.”

It will be a new look for AFC North rival Cincinnati (9-4), which will be looking to lock up at least a share of the division title when it faces the Steelers on Sunday night at Heinz Field.

Worilds began the season as the starter at right outside linebacker. Jones started against Cincinnati on Sept. 16, but Worilds has been a starter since a 19-16 win over Baltimore, including the last four games at left outside linebacker.

“We definitely have something we can grow from, but it's something we have to mend together,” inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons said. “There's definitely an upside to having two guys willing to change their games to help the team.”

Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rpaulk@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RalphPaulk_Trib.

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