Last year, in his first full season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, reserve defensive lineman Al Woods played all of 30 snaps on defense. In the season opener last Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, Woods, a former fourth-round draft pick of the New Orleans Saints, played a third of that 2012 amount and he will likely surpass that number by the time the team reaches their bye week.
“Al is in our rotation now. He is going to get his snaps,” said Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau on Thursday. “He virtually has the role that Steve McLendon had last year. Like Chris Hoke did for us, Al can play end and nose. He’s a valuable guy for us. He played well against Tennessee. We are going to give him snaps, particularly early in the season when the weather is hot. It’s good to roll your linemen if you have the people you can roll with.”
The Steelers five-man defensive line rotation seemed to work well against the Titans and the ability of Woods to play multiple positions will allow the team to keep nose tackle Steve McLendon and defensive end Ziggy Hood fresh in the process.
McLendon played a great game against the Titans as did Woods when he was asked to relieve him.
Woods arrived in Pittsburgh via waivers from the Seattle Seahawks late in the 2011 season, but did not dress for a game until just last season. His ability to learn the nose tackle position this past offseason ultimately allowed the team to part ways with 2012 fourth-round draft pick Alameda Ta’amu.
The team chose to keep Hebron Fangupo, but he figures to require a little more seasoning before being allowed to dress for games. Woods ability to play multiple positions will allow Fangupo to develop at his own pace as long as everyone on the defensive line stays healthy.
Woods will be a free agent at that end of the 2013 season and being as the team really doesn’t have any experience behind him, you have to think he will be a priority to re-sign next offseason.