Following a 2012 season that saw him miss three games due to injury and registering just four sacks, starting Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley is certainly under the microscope this offseason.
Woodley, who was called out by an unidentified teammate after the 2012 season ended for not being in the best of shape last year, was back in Pittsburgh on Saturday to speak at a luncheon for the P.A.C.T. Initiative and he spoke to Dan Gigler of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about his offseason training.
“My offseason is going great. I\’m looking forward to getting back with the team in a few weeks,” Woodley told Gigler. “I\’ve been training since the middle of February. … It was a disappointing season being 8-8 and not making the playoffs. It was disappointing at the end of the day.”
Woodley, who was slowed by both a hamstring and ankle last season, pointed once again to the ankle being the roughest of the two, and is focused on returning to form in 2013.
“My thing was during the season when I hurt my ankle, I said that I wanted to come back stronger next year,” said Woodley, via the report by Gigler. “Some injuries you can\’t predict or avoid, but, during the season, I said this offseason I\’d be determined to get after it.”
Despite not having the expected production for going on a season and a half now, the Steelers still decided to restructure Woodley\’s contract earlier the offseason. That restructure not only cleared necessary cap space for the 2013 season, but also showed that the organization still has confidence that their former second-round draft pick will rebound in 2013.
In 2011, Woodley was off to great start until he blew out his hamstring in the Week 8 win against the New England Patriots. Up until that point, he had registered nine sacks, but did not record another one until Week 2 last season against the New York Jets. After a hamstring injury forced him out of the Week 5 game early against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Michigan product only recorded two more sacks the rest of the season and looked like a shell of his former self.
At the urging of safety Ryan Clark, Woodley decided to train with his teammate this offseason out in Arizona at at Performance Enhancement Professionals instead of taking renown trainer Tom Shaw up on his offer to train down in Florida with cornerbacks Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen.
As far as the Steelers drafting Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft last weekend goes, Woodley says that he has indeed already reached out to his new teammate via a phone call.
“I congratulated him and welcomed him to the team and told him just to come in and learn the playbook and get ready to work.”
With veteran James Harrison now out of the picture, fourth-year linebacker Jason Worilds will likely start the 2013 season opposite Woodley and the Steelers can\’t afford to have either get off to a slow start.
For the last two seasons the Steelers have failed to get the necessary production from their outside linebackers and a rebound season from Woodley, which I expect to happen, will be a welcomed and much needed sight.
Should Woodley once again be hampered by injuries and poor production in 2013, the Steelers will once again be forced to use yet another high round draft pick on an outside linebacker in the 2014 draft. If that should happen, they still more than likely wouldn\’t be able to cut ties with Woodley next offseason because of all the dead money that would be associated with his contract termination.
The Steelers first OTA session is scheduled to take place in a couple of more weeks and you can bet all eyes will be focused on Woodley, and more importantly how he looks when he shows up for the first practice.