LaMarr Woodley Re-Establishing Himself As An Elite Pass Rusher

By Matthew Marczi

Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley came into the 2013 somewhat under fire after spending the past season and a half slowed or sidelined by a series of injuries. The team collectively was forced to deal with a supposed locker room schism in which a player allegedly claimed that many on the team were frustrated with Woodley’s lack of fitness, which would have contributed to his ineffectiveness.

To exacerbate the issue, the injury problems all began only after Woodley signed one of the largest contracts in team history. Of course, nobody in the sports world is a bigger target than a player underperforming a shiny new contract, short of those accused of criminal activity of some kind.

Woodley got his 2013 campaign off to a good start in the offseason, however, by reporting in better shape and condition after training in Arizona with teammate Ryan Clark. Position coach Keith Butler took notice, saying that “whatever he did, it appears to be right”.

In the preseason, Woodley did not play much; in fact, every other outside linebacker on the team rushed the passer more than twice as much as he did, outside of course Adrian Robinson, who was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles for Felix Jones.

Woodley had just 17 pass rushes during the preseason, but he made those rushes count, registering one sack and two hurries. That translates to a Pass Rushing Productivity figure of 14.7, second on the team only to Alan Baxter, who had two sacks and seven hurries in 39 pass rushing snaps.

In the regular season, Woodley’s figures have only improved. In fact, he is off to the best start of his career, and is on pace to have his most productive season as a pass rusher.

Through five games, Woodley ranks third in the league in Pass Rushing Productivity behind only Tamba Hali and Aldon Smith—the latter of whom is obviously currently otherwise engaged. Woodley’s rating of 16.2 is superior to the 13 rating that was good enough to lead the league in 2009.

Woodley has rushed the passer 94 times through five games, and has produced four sacks, four hits, and 11 hurries. Hali has eight sacks, four hits, and 39 hurries for a PRP rating of 17.8.

PRP gives a clearer picture than the raw numbers, of course. Hali has double the sacks and nearly quadruple the hurries, but he has 226 pass rushing snaps because, unlike Woodley, he is almost exclusively a pass rusher.

Thus far this season, Hali has rushed the passer on 85.9 percent of his passing snaps, whereas Woodley has rushed just 58.8 percent of the time. Only Calvin Pace (58.3 percent) and Manny Lawson (23.7 percent) rush the passer less often among 3-4 outside linebackers.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • WilliamSekinger

    Is Lebeau keeping Woodley in his hip pocket? Wouldn’t be surprised if sometime soon he unleashes Woodley to create havoc. It’ll be fun to watch when it happens.

  • Ahmad

    I wonder how many more sacks Woodley would have if he had the same # of opportunities that Hali has had.

  • steeltown

    He has been great, he seems fully healthy and back to his old self.

    On a side note, can we please get Baxter back on the PS, please, they could maybe release Kashif Moore

  • Rosco

    Hopefully this week!!

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I was saying the same thing…get Baxter back…maybe he had done something the FO or coaches didn’t like…that is the only thing I could think of.

  • NW86

    Saying that Woodley came into 2013 “somewhat under fire” is an understatement, judging by the comments I saw on this site over the past 1.5 years. I always felt like those calling him overpaid and questioning his conditioning were a little overblown. Woodley also was one of the top OLB’s in the league the previous few years, while quietly and patiently playing out his rookie contract at league minimum. People get hurt sometimes. Could he have prevented some of them by doing specific workouts and focusing on the right areas? Maybe, but you have to learn that as you experience different problems, like Troy has done this year as well.
    I’m glad to see Woodley looking good again, and hope he can stay healthy all year and keep moving up that career sack list.

  • Chad H

    Thank you, I never gave up on this guy. Injuries happen and now he is back doing what he does. Also with the comment above I too hope they get Baxter back!

  • srdan

    To be honest, I thought they were going to cut him at the end of this year. I’m glad he “flicked the switch”. It’s making me believe that he was injured and not just lazy.
    He has a huge build so it’s easy for him to put fat on, he has to be careful over the balance of his career to show up in shape, or he will continue to have nagging injuries.

    With all that being said, I always wear his jersey to away games. Just to point to the six in the “56” and ask people what it stands for!

  • mlc43

    LOL…yup! He’s keeping Woodley in check. He was hoping to run the record to 0-6 or 0-7 before he unleashed him into beast mode! Wow

  • charles

    I was and still am a Woodley critic. His missed tackle on AP was a game changer…..for Minnesota. But, there is no question that he had a ferocious hit on Smith and has been much more forceful this year.

  • Mike Carroll

    Very glad to see Woodley back in shape and getting after the QB again. I questioned his conditioning last year because his coach said it was an issue. And I criticized his contract (and the restructuring of it) because any contract that large requires stellar play week in and week out to begin to justify it from a salary cap perspective. Injuries and potential dampening of player motivation are just a couple of reasons why handing out such contracts to any player is a very dangerous proposition. I’ve always liked Woodley as a player and I never gave up on him (though I still think it was a mistake to restructure his deal yet again). He’s producing like a top linebacker right now, so perhaps his salary is justifiable right now. Hopefully, that continues through the remainder of his contract.

  • PA2AK

    Nice pot shot. With even the slightest off the top questions, maybe there is a combination here of why’s…..Jarvis Jones is considered a liability in pass coverage so I’m sure they are adjusting to that when possible. We have been behind for a majority of the time and teams have been running the ball on us effectively on 3rd and shorts. Just thinking about those three right off the bat…it’s going to limit the pass rushes. And more to William’s points…we can see the veterans getting more involved and the defense taking more risks as the season progresses. Dealing with a 1st time starter at NT, Hood giving way to Heyward, Worilds and now Jones, Wilson now Williams, injury to Allen….it seems pretty evident that he had to hold him back and may finally have the personnel on the field with enough confidence to let him loose.

  • PA2AK

    Woodley is also HIGHLY underrated against the run. Rarely do you not see him setting the edge or getting turned. Glad he has seemed to kick those injuries to the past.

  • mlc43

    You can make a case that Woodley could be more productive. The reason he isn’t more productive isn’t because Lebeau is secreting him away until some special time that he can be “unleashed” to bring destruction to QBs the league over.

  • PA2AK

    to be fair…every single one of our players deserves a critic. Going 8-8 and now 1-4….its safe to say that everyone has made some mistakes. Ben, Troy, Heath, Timmons, Brown, etc. etc. no one is immune. Winning is the only way to make people forget about your mistakes….especially when you have a really nice contract….injured or not.

  • PA2AK

    You might be stretching his original comment a bit…but the point is…LeBeau knows what he has in Woodley. He IS holding him back until he is comfortable enough with the rest of the D.

  • WilliamSekinger

    There are plenty of reasons for Lebeau to keep Woodley in check as PA2AK has pointed out. Once the defense is running on all cylinders and Lebeau is comfortable that other aren’t missing assignments, I do expect him to send Woodley after the QB more. You must not have read the article. Woodley is extremely productive but has had limited pass rushing attempts. Either that, or you just felt like taking a shot at me for whatever reason.

  • mlc43

    I don’t believe Lebeau is holding him back at all. As you pointed out in your first post, and rather well, it’s circumstances of the game that are limiting his attempts. I don’t believe I am stretching the the OP comment all that much. I do agree with your OP though.

  • PA2AK

    maybe just a case of misunderstanding…probably the first ever of its kind on the internet!

  • mlc43

    Mostly just felt like taking a shot at your comment. It really did strike that outlandish post chord for me so I had to make a little fun of it. Don’t take it too personally, there have been many, and much, more outlandish comments put out there….well, not by much. 😉

  • Matthew Marczi

    With Green re-signed to the active roster, Baxter is probably the most likely candidate to be signed.

  • steeltown

    I saw that…. and im hoping {fingers crossed}

  • Dr. Doom

    If you put the work in Lamarr you will have good results. But you have to keep it up.

  • Virdin Barzey

    If we are to beat the Ravens, pressure and sacks from Woodley, Cam, Worrilds, Kiesel is where the game will be won or lost. Noticed I did not mention Ziggy who shouldn’t even be on this team. McClendon needs to clog that middle and stop Ray from going wild.

    Woodley’s play has been better but lets not get too ahead of ourselves. We need more from a guy is who is getting paid a lot. Clearly B-more want to throw the ball, which means they will try to give us a heavey dose of Ray and Pierce.

    Vince Williams and Timmons better man up. Biggest game of the year. If those guys up front don’t win that battle, Ike, Gay and Allen will be having a long day.