Prior to suffering a bad hamstring injury in 2011 in the game against the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley had 9 sacks to his credit. 7.5 of those sacks came during the four game span that fellow outside linebacker James Harrison was sidelined with a fractured orbital bone suffered in the Week 4 game against the Houston Texans.
Woodley told the media on Wednesday that his hot first half of the 2011 season was because he was allowed to rush more.
“I felt in 2011 we were rushing a little bit more, you know, getting after the quarterback,” said Woodley. “James Harrison went down, so I was rushing a little bit more to get after the quarterback and less coverage and more rushing.”
So what does Woodley hope he does more of in 2013? You guessed it, he wants to rush more.
“They pay me to rush, so hopefully I\’ll be rushing and not covering receivers and tight ends down the field,” he said. “I felt that I dropped a lot last year in coverage, but that\’s part of the scheme. But I\’d definitely like to get back to doing more rushing than dropping back in coverage, because my game is predicated on sacks and this defense is predicated on getting after the quarterback, making the quarterback make bad decisions and allowing our secondary to make plays.”
Woodley, who reportedly showed up this year in good shape following a season in which he battled not only another hamstring injury, but a high ankle sprain in addition, dropped into coverage on 135 of the 370 passing plays he was in for in 2012, according to Pro Football Focus. That equates to covering 35% of the time.
In 2011, Woodley dropped into coverage 46% of the time in the first eight games of the season, but only 37% of the time during the four games that he registered those 7.5 sacks. Make of those numbers what you will.
Woodley says he is back healthy again and added that he didn\’t do anything different this offseason in regard to his training, outside of doing it in Arizona with a few other Steelers players. He also continues to say it was the high ankle sprain and not the his injured hamstring that caused him to be slowed last season.
The Steelers defense has suffered the last two seasons in their ability to get after the quarterback, let alone sack one, so Woodley will be expected to get back to the same form he was in the first half of 2011. To do that however, he knows he\’ll need some help from whoever winds up playing outside linebacker on the right side.
“It’s definitely important,” said Woodley. “Here in Pittsburgh outside linebackers play off one another. When there are two good ones here they have a lot of sacks and help the team out because you can’t just focus on one guy.”