Steelers Rookie WR J.D. Woods Knows Just How Important Special Teams Is To His Future

On Tuesday, I listed Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver J.D. Woods as one of five undrafted players whom I think have a small chance to make the 53 man roster out of training camp this year. Woods certainly faces long odds, but he knows that if he is going to beat those odds, it will be because he\’s able to not only contribute as a fifth or sixth wide receiver on offense, but on special teams in addition.

“Right now it\’s going pretty good,” said Woods, who was back in West Virginia making an appearance at an area collectable store. “Right now, special teams. You have to work hard at special teams, not only special teams, but when you go in as a wide receiver, as myself, understand the play book and just be on point. Because at that level, it\’s all about precision, so you\’ve got to be in your spot when you\’re told to be in your spot.”

Woods apparently played some special teams while at West Virginia and was pressed further on the topic during his recent interview as it relates to him possibly making the roster.

“It\’s a 53 man roster, so I just want to be on that 53 man roster, whether that\’s special teams working my way up, I just want to make a way and do what the coaches ask me to do,” said Woods.

Woods is probably pretty used to beating long odds by now; however, as I wrote in a previous post, the West Virginia coaching staff had demoted Woods to the scout team last spring because they weren\’t sure he would even be academically eligible for the 2012 season. After he buckled down and got his grades up, he was moved into the slot position and then back outside prior to the start of the season.

Despite being the third receiving option on the team behind Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, Woods still managed to register 61 catches for 637 yards and four touchdowns last season after only having 25 catches for 272 yards total in his previous two seasons. Because he was considered a one-year producer and a No. 3 wide receiver that benefited mostly from single coverage, Woods was not invited to the 2013 NFL Combine and was forced instead to show teams what he had during his pro day.

With Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert in attendance, the 6 foot, 203-pound Woods reportedly ran a 4.56 forty-yard dash to go along with a 31.5 vertical jump and a 09\’05” broad jump. His workout must have been enough as Woods was one of 15 undrafted players signed by the Steelers immediately after the 2013 NFL Draft concluded.

When Woods joined the Steelers for their offseason practices, he didn\’t have to introduce himself to a few players in attendance as fullback Will Johnson, center Joe Madsen and linebacker Terence Garvin all went to West Virginia as well. Woods talked about having former teammates of his now on the Steelers with him.

“It\’s definitely a motivation to see those guys out there just because you can relate to them,” said Woods. “Because they came through the same process as you. Went to the same university, same workouts, so to see them out there, you\’re just like, man, my guys are out here. You get a great feeling about it. Just It just you want to have a great practice not only for yourself and your family, but just for those guys.”

Woods battle for a roster spot has only just begun, and he will next get a chance to show what he has when the Steelers start their training camp late next month at Latrobe.

  • steeltown

    61rec. for 637yds and 4TDs when being #3 behind Austin and Bailey is pretty impressive, I see why the Steelers brass wanted to sign him as UDFA

    I hope he makes the practice squad.. because next year Burress, Cotchery and Sanders could ALL be gone

  • Shannon Stephenson

    The one thing I have noticed is that it seems that every guy that we picked up in the draft or UDFA are quality people 1st then football players. It seems we went out of our way to make that happen. I like Woods as a potential guy on making the roster. Excited for preseason to start!

  • Kenneth Wilt

    Between Woods and Justin Brown I think we could very well have our replacements for Burress and Cotchery….assuming they actually develop after a year on the practice squad….which is where they will both end up this year.

  • steeltown

    I actually hope we keep 6WRs on roster this season. I think we will only carry 4RBs & 4Safeties this season, which opens up a couple roster spots that we didn’t have last season. I think the extra spots will go to WR & TE initially (and TE is a guess pending Heaths return week 1 or not, but once he is able to suit up they can then carry another CB instead or OL if necessary)

    If they indeed carry 6WRs that extra WR could be Gilreath, JDWoods or JBrown (if Burress makes the Team out of camp)

  • Wayne Darby

    After watching some highlights of Woods, what has impressed me the most is his ability and willingness to go over the middle and make tough catches in traffic and shows to have great hands.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    If there was ever a season to keep 6 WRs this is it. It’s kind of a transition year with a lot of uncertainty at that position. I’d really like to keep a couple of veterans to help the youngsters not repeat of the “young money” attitude. But speed is so important at WR. It really hurts to keep Cotchery and Plax active each week.

    I think the biggest reason to keep 6 is actually variation of skillset. We’ve got 3 similar type guys in Brown, Wheaton, Sanders. I feel like we’ve got to keep at least 1 taller red zone threat. Maybe two. One vet + one developmental. These guys like Woods, Gilreath, Dunn are going to have to be EXCEPTIONAL in camp to make the team IMO.

  • 2443scott

    i agree to some the comments about keeping more wr`s …but i am not to thrilled to have wr`s on special teams i rather have lb`ers and db`s more so on special teams only because they tackle better then wr`s unless your names hines but those guys come around once in life time ….and like some said plax and cotchery will prob be gone next year and who knows what will happen to sanders he seems always hurt for some reason and that last year is lingering over the steeler nation again with him so might be 3 wr`s gone next year and if steelers place woods on practice squad maybe some team come in and steal him away ..and if sanders or brown would get hurt (knock on wood)plax cant go reg as a wr any more for a season so stick woods on special teams even though i would rather it be a def guy on there

  • steeltown

    There is also kick return capabilities, not just special teams coverage. For example when A.Brown and E.Sanders were first drafted they returned kicks/punts… and now guys like Gilreath and Justin Brown have college experience returning kicks which might help one of them come final cut day

  • cencalsteeler

    Woods will open some eyes when camp starts, I’m rooting for him.

  • Christopher Wilkes

    I have no clue about this Woods guy. Maybe he impresses in the preseason, but right now simply looking at the numbers he looks like a practice squad player. He does have a chance tho if the Steelers keep 6 receivers, because Gilreath, Moore, and Moye are garbage. If Reggie Dunn can’t return punts then I can’t see him making it. That leaves a 3-way battle between Burress, Brown and Woods, but I think Burress easily makes the team, so whoever is the better special teams player between Brown and Woods wins a spot on the 53. My money is on the Steelers making the right pick in the 6th rd.

  • Douglas Andrews

    Cotchery is probably a lock I would like to see one of the young guys either Brown or Woods make the 53. I like Plax as a red zone threat but he’s not playing ST’s and really is only a big body in the Red Zone. Hopefully they keep 6 Wr’s on the 53 this year i think we were lucky last yr with only carrying 5WR that there were no injuries.

  • dgh57

    I agree, he just needs the opportunity to show his skills!

  • Rob Koberna

    Plex will be retiring after this season. He wants to go out a steeler…and cotchery will move on depending on how the rest of the wr hold up this season. Injuries been a big factor last two seasons. .! And wr on special teams are tipicly used to run the ball I hope and def know 6wr this season will def improve are team..

  • casssndra mccloskey

    Jd woods I’d Pittsburgh steeler through and through nice moved in tonight game way to go!