Woodley's training methods polish formidable skills
The sight of a man on a treadmill is generally not unnerving.
But if offensive coordinators charged with containing LaMarr Woodley had watched his workouts between the end of offseason practices in June and the start of training camp, they may have shuddered a bit.
The reason: Woodley running on a cranked-up treadmill with a steep incline proved to be more than just symbolic of the rapid climb the outside linebacker has made since cracking the Steelers' starting lineup in 2008.
"It's like running up a hill, and one thing about that hill is if you stop running you're going to fall," Woodley said of one aspect of his training regimen at Athletic Republic outside of Detroit. "It was a great workout. I feel better explosion-wise."
That should make quarterbacks feel worse. Woodley, 25, is already among the top pass rushers in the NFL and is entering his prime.
"He should get significantly better for the next three or four years," Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said. "That's your significant growth period in this league."
Significant growth may be an understatement when talking about the strides Woodley has made since the Steelers stole him in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft.
A defensive end at Michigan, Woodley made a seamless transition to outside linebacker and made Clark Haggans expendable. The Steelers did not attempt to re-sign the latter following the 2007 season.
As impressive as any physical specimen on the Steelers' roster, Woodley is listed at 6-foot-2, 265 pounds. Yet, he is light enough on his feet that Woodley seems just as ease dropping into coverage as he is rushing the passer from the left side of the Steelers' defense.
"He doesn't trust it as much as I do sometimes in his pass coverage," linebackers coach Keith Butler said. "He gets off people a little bit too far; he worries about getting beat sometimes. I think he is gaining more and more confidence."
The six or so weeks Woodley spent at Athletic Republic in Auburn Hills, Mich., only enhanced that confidence.
As freakishly athletic as Woodley is -- he had a vertical leap of 38 inches at his Pro Day workout in 2007 -- he was "looking for something new" when a friend hooked him up with trainer Steve Mann at Athletic Republic.
Woodley quickly bought into Mann's plan for him, and he worked out at Athletic Republic, a science-based training facility, four days a week from the middle to June until late July.
Part of his regimen included running on Athletic Republic's Super Treadmill, a seemingly diabolical machine in which the incline can be set as high as 40 degrees and the speed as fast as 28 mph.
Woodley, the only player in NFL history to record multiple sacks in four consecutive postseason games, said sessions on the Super Treadmill left him "gassed."
"It doesn't look like it's hard, but when you're doing it, it's tough," he said.
Mann said he used the treadmill to simulate the speed and intensity of an NFL play, which lasts about 10 or 15 seconds, with the ultimate goal to improve Woodley's burst and ability to cover more ground.
"It allows us to develop a good stride length, a longer stride length," Mann said.
Mann and Woodley also worked on improving the latter's strength in core areas such as the hips and abdomen as well as on nutrition.
Mann had chefs prepare meals for Woodley, who rented an apartment while working out at Athletic Republic, and stressed the importance of eating properly before and after workouts.
"One thing LaMarr didn't do very well in his offseason was handle his nutrition, and so we spent some time with him talking about his nutrition," Mann said.
These days, there doesn't appear to be anything Woodley can't handle -- whether it is chasing down a quarterback, keeping stride with a receiver in pass coverage or keeping pace on a treadmill that pushed him to the physical brink.
"He's still at a stage where he can learn more," Butler said. "He knows that, but the thing about LaMarr is he's a great competitor. We'll see how good he becomes."Additional Information:
Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley has ranked among the NFL's top 10 in sacks since becoming a starter two seasons ago.
Player -- Team -- Sacks
Elvis Dumervil -- Broncos -- 17
Jared Allen -- Vikings -- 14.5
Dwight Freeney -- Colts -- 13.5
LaMarr Woodley -- Steelers -- 13.5
Will Smith -- Saints -- 13.0
Trent Cole -- Eagles -- 12.5
Andre Carter -- Redskins -- 11
Brian Orakpo -- Redskins -- 11
DeMarcus Ware -- Cowboys -- 11
Julius Peppers -- Panthers -- 10.5
Player -- Team -- Sacks
Ware -- Cowboys -- 0
Joey Porter -- Dolphins -- 17.5
John Abraham -- Falcons -- 16.5
James Harrison -- Steelers -- 16
Allen -- Vikings -- 14.5
Peppers -- Panthers -- 14.5
Justin Tuck -- Giants -- 12
Mario Williams -- Texans -- 12
Robert Mathis -- Colts -- 11.5
Woodley -- Steelers -- 11.5