Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley let it be known a few days ago that he would like to rush the quarterback more in 2013 and drop into coverage less because he thinks that\’s what they pay him big money to do. Linebackers coach Keith Butler was asked Saturday by David Todd of 970 ESPN Radio about Woodley\’s remarks and if indeed 2012 was any different than previous years with Woodley. Butler of course was straight forward in his response.
“Well, he seems to think there was,” said Butler.” I don\’t think there was and what I told him is he needs to come watch the film before he makes statements like that, but that\’s Ok. I mean there\’s times that we go into game plans, and we feel like we do have to drop him and times we want to rush him too.
“But the problem that we have is this, you got to stop people from running the football. When you stop people from running the football, you make them one dimensional, and until you make them one dimensional, it is very hard to get pressure on the quarterback. So whether he was dropping more or not last year, I don\’t know. They ran the ball better on us than they have last year than times before, so we couldn\’t get them into passing situations as a consequence. So we got to stop the run.”
As Matthew Marczi pointed out Sunday morning in his post, the Steelers outside linebackers rush the passer less than other 3-4 teams do on average. Woodley did see a slight dip in 2012 from 2011 as far as his rush percentage went, but he actually rushed 32 more times in 2012 than he did in 2011. The linebacker was of course battling a high ankle sprain, and a pulled hamstring last year and wasn\’t effective.
As Butler points out, if Woodley wants to pass rush more the defense needs to do a better job on early downs of stopping the run in order to set up more obvious passing situations so that the outside linebackers can pin their ears back a little more often.
While that might help, there will still be games where the plan requires Woodley to drop into coverage more than he might like. The scheme is the scheme, and Woodley needs to understand that the team pays him the big money to play well in that scheme. If it requires him to drop more than pass rush, then he needs to give that the same effort that he does rushing the quarterback. While sack stats are great, the most important stat is the final score.