LaMarr Woodley Continues Career-Best Pace As Pass Rusher

By Matthew Marczi

LaMarr Woodley did not register a sack for the second straight week after reeling off one per game for five straight weeks, but that doesn’t mean that he failed to bring the pressure when presented the opportunity. In fact, he probably would have had a sack had Cameron Heyward not gotten to Tom Brady first.

A week after adding four more quarterback pressures to his season total—including a quarterback hit—Woodley is in fact still on a career-best pace in terms of his ability to rush the passer.

According to Pro Football Focus, Woodley has registered five sacks, six hits, and 19 hurries through the first half of the 2013 season. That does not quite compare to the 60 total pressures, including 10 sacks, from Tamba Hali, or the 12 sacks and 34 other pressures of Mario Williams, but the raw numbers do not tell the full story.

The difference between Woodley and other pass rushers such as the aforementioned, Robert Mathis, or Terrell Suggs is in the category in which the Steelers outside linebacker ranks near the bottom: pass rushes.

As I have written about multiple times in the past, Dick LeBeau’s outside linebackers rush the passer significantly less than the average. In fact, on the year, of the 23 3-4 outside linebackers that have logged at least 50 percent of the team’s snaps, Woodley ranks 23rd, behind only New York Jets linebacker Calvin Pace.

Woodley rushes the passer just under 21 times a game, having done so 166 times through the team’s first eight games. Williams? He has already rushed the passer 320 times in the nine games the Buffalo Bills have played—over 35 times a game.

That is because the Bills rush Williams against the passer on an utterly astounding 97.6 percent of his passing snaps—or all but eight of them. LeBeau sends Woodley on the hunt a mere 65.9 percent of the time. Yes, Woodley’s 166 pass rushes have come on 252 passing plays.

In fact, if you take all players at the position that have logged 25 percent of the team’s snaps, his pass rush percentage would rank 32rd out of 38 players, above only such pass-rushing luminaries as Manny Lawson, Pace, and Courtney Upshaw.

Despite the significantly fewer opportunities than most pass rushers, however, the difference between Woodley and ‘most’ is that he has been making the most of his opportunities. His 30 pressures on 166 rushes equates to a pressure every 5.5 attempts, or over 18 percent of the time.

Mario Williams generates pressure on only 14.4 percent of his rushes. Tamba Hali? He is the only player in the league going at a better clip, ringing up pressure on 18.3 percent of his rushes.

LaMarr Woodley led the entire league in Pro Football Focus’ Pass Rushing Productivity category in 2009 with a score of 13.0. A year later he finished second with 12.9. In 2013, his PRP stand at 14.3. For comparison, James Harrison had a score of 13.0 when he broke the franchise record with 16 sacks and finished the season as the Defensive Player of the Year.

Because he is not racking up the eye-popping sack totals, it may not seem as though Woodley is playing in form. The lack of multiple-sack games also lends credence to that idea. But the truth of the matter is that, from a pure pressure-generating standpoint, Woodley may never have been better.

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

    But Marczi, we have to release Woodley, a year after we lost Harrison, because Woodley sucks!! Cutting our best pass rusher will fix all of our problems!

    {sarcasm}

  • dkoy85

    Hopefully Jones continues to learn and bulks up in the off season. The two of them on the outside and Heyward should be a lethal combination next year.

  • DAYSNWAYS

    I think they should rush him more, seeing has he’s doing such a great job at that, … because he’s below the line at doing anything else on the field,..well apart from picking up a fumble, which he couldn’t even do without kicking it first,… gee, good job no one else was around to pounce on it!

    Are we going to get a big up Lamarr thread every week? I quite enjoy them.

    …meanwhile another Rookie O’lineman saunters off into the sunset with a pat on the back having held Lamarr to zero sacks and no game changing plays.

  • bonairsfavoriteson

    About as dumb a comment as one could make, Woodley would have had a sack if Heyward had not got to the qb first. What!!!! Listen up Steeler defense, will you guys please slow down so Woodley can pad his stats.

  • Eric

    No one wants Woodley cut. We just want the all-pro performance he is earning in his pay check

  • Madi

    This always drove me nuts: James Harrison gets 16 sacks rushing the passer 60% of passing plays. Demarcus Ware and Terrell Suggs each get 18 sacks rushing 99% of passing plays. Ware and Suggs are the better pass rushers.
    Sometimes people are stupid.

  • steeltown

    I have seen countless posts on this site over the course of the last 2yrs calling for Woodley to be cut

  • Chad H

    Statistically he is have a good year. I don’t think the fans calling him to be cut would be happy until he has 20 sacks. Shows they don’t understand LeBeau’s system. Which we don’t have the players to run with success this year. Blame Tomlin for that one. We need a NT period. Move TP to free safety (goodbye Clark I do appreciate everything you have done) and Shark to SS. Jones to ILB and leave Worilds at OLB. Start giving Allen more snaps in place of Taylor and see what develops.

  • Eric

    Play up to his paycheck, take a pay cut or trade him for good value and making 2014 salary cap room. I also think Ike and Troy are not playing up to their paycheck. I have not said this about Timmons, Brown, Ben or Miller, the other giant cap hits in 2014

  • CrazyTerry

    He is a one dimensional player. He does not bat down passes. He has forced only one fumble which was not recovered. He did recover a fumble forced by Troy. He is just OK when dropping in coverage. Sacks is all he does. I have not seen a premium pass rusher get blocked one on one by a TE as much as he has done in recent seasons. We needed him to come up with one big play yesterday .

    And I thought it was the LBs , not the DL guys who pass rush a lot in this defense. If Woodley doesn’t, then who is supposed to?

  • srdan

    I agree. We could possibly have a great PR next year.

  • DAYSNWAYS

    16 solo tackles through 8 games, …. on pace for a meagre 32 through 16 games, 2 a game…

    James Harrison had 49 solos in just 13 games with a bad back in 2012!!

    Statistically good?,…errr no.

  • Chad H

    With Heyward and Woodley on that side (the strongest side) what side is the ball being ran too?
    Most of the runs and biggest runs for TDs is going to the offensive left side. Not on the side of Woodley and Heyward. Got to look at the whole game.
    3-4 tackle leaders should be the D line and ILBs. Don’t evaluate solely on tackles for OLB in a 3-4 you will only disappoint yourself.

  • Jason

    I said the same thing when I read it. Perhaps we can come up with a new stat for Woodley like almost a sack if someone hadn’t got there first. LOL. When we have to start breaking down numbers to pressure per blitz attempt we know how bad it’s gotten. 2 straight games with no meaningful impact. Oh and 1 more thing he wasn’t double teamed 1 time vs NE although many still site how many times he’s double teamed as yet another excuse for why he can’t get the qb. But he’s on pace for 10 sacks!! This equates to around $1 million per sack. Great value! Hell give him a raise

  • http://www.nyob.com/ Dr. Doom

    Where are the Lamarr Woodley haters-Stats do not lie!

  • srdan

    I am not a Woodley hater. But I have an issue with his salary. I expect more out of the price tag. Why is he dropping into coverage so much if the FO is paying him as an elite edge rusher. Get your monies worth.
    I have never seen him drop into coverage and said “wow that was nice”. He does not get consistent pressure, nobody fears him. I see him get blocked by tight-ends. That is unacceptable.
    I think of him as a number two receiver. If he is your best, you’re in trouble.

    I do have to say that the emergence of Camron will elevate all of our edge rushers efficiency. No longer can the QB just shuffle forward and the OLBs get pushed by. We all know what the first year of conditioning in the Steelers program does for players. I expect JJ to come back a monster next year. With those 3 players, hopefully we can see consistent pressure.

  • cencalsteeler

    The first Patriots offensive player that becomes available, I say we grab him, for Dick’s sake!!

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    Because Woodley does not rush all the time, the offense does not automatically assign a tackle to him and he is not regularly chipped or doubled. I think this pads his efficiency stats just a little. He destroys tight ends and backs.

    Regardless, Woodley is playing well, particularly when he is rushing the passer. I was critical of him in the offseason and thought that he would be a candidate to go in a cap purge, despite the cap acceleration issues. I don’t think that anymore. The final hurdle for him is to prove that he can do this over a full season.

  • http://www.nyob.com/ Dr. Doom

    The front office does not call defensive plays that is Mr Lebeau

  • AJ Smith

    Drink more Koolaid. Enjoy access and free meals, Matt. For $61 M, how about more than 0 tackles and 0 assists. Woodley is here to stay because our resident genius Kevin Colbert has about $14 M in cap space attributable to him for the next two years. For all the cheering apologists, let that sink in. $14 M x 2 for what exactly………Anyone remember the last time you went “wow that was a great play” when I comes to Woodley. Nope didn’t think so. I can say that with Troy but can’t remember the last time so much cap was eaten up by someone I barely notice anymore on Sunday.

  • AJ Smith

    Really, 0 tackles and 0 assists, for $61 M, that is acceptable to you?

  • Matthew Marczi

    That comment was made precisely as a jab at people like you, suggesting that the magical difference between a good game and a bad game is getting a sack. Evidently that is what you think matters, since you think it’s reasonable to equate his salary as a per-sack statistic. Also, don’t try to state facts when you have no interest in verifying them. Woodley was most certainly double teamed against the Patriots. Just stay angry. That’s what you want, right? To be angry, to vent your frustrations?

  • Matthew Marczi

    Don’t be naive. That was clearly not the point being made.

  • Matthew Marczi

    It amuses me how fans feel the need to vent their frustrations by making smarmy remarks if somebody says something positive after a bad game. Your job as a fan is to be angry. My job as a writer is to be level-headed. I couldn’t give less of a crap what salary Woodley is making. You’re not judged on a curve based on your salary. This is not an apologist article. I have nothing to gain by being an apologist. I write what I think, every time, positive or negative, and I don’t have to tolerate your naive accusations.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    This brings us back to the argument of switching to a 4-3 defense.

    Hypothetically speaking, if we were to trade up and draft Clowney, that would give us Woodley and Clowney as our two edge rushers. With Heyward and McClendon pressuring up the middle as DTs. That’s a very solid front.

    I understand we don’t have all the other pieces right now. I get it. I promise. But when you’re getting consistent pressure on the QB, you can cover a lot of flaws on your defense. That would be the fastest way to restore our defense IMO.

    The greatest defense we ever had was the famous Steel Curtain. A 4-3 scheme.

  • Matthew Marczi

    He just batted down a pass last week…and he’s actually well above average in pass coverage. He plays the run well. He is a complete linebacker. Your anecdotal impressions aside, Woodley is not a problem on this defense.

    The defensive line is rushing the passer more by design this season. Did you miss that story in the offseason? And interior pressure is always going to be more important against a quick-release offense, regardless of whether it’s a 4-3 or a 3-4 defense.

  • Chris Wilkes

    Woodley could’ve done better in this game, but he’s having a good year, so hard to get on him for not getting sacks when the secondary leaves the receivers wide open all game.

  • Jason

    Yet if Woodley had 2 sacks and played terrible otherwise all you Woodley supporters would be screaming that he had 2 sacks. And could you please let me know when he was double teamed because I watched the game back and must have missed it. And no I prefer not be angry and clearly Woodley isn’t the only player that deserves blame but when there is a daily post defending how great he is it’s hard to point out his shortcomings. 2 straight weeks facing pedestrian RT and TE with no double teams and 0 sacks and little pressure and if he’s constantly dropping into coverage where is the pass breakups or int or anything to impact the game??? Now if there were articles everyday defending Clark I’d call B.S on that too but it seems only Woodley has devoted followers willing to come up with any lame excuse for why he is so invisible for games at a time.

  • Jason

    And although your post has been deleted where you say Woodley was double teamed vs NE I took the liberty of watching the first half again and Woodley was blocked on blitzes 1 on 1 by a tackle 10 times and provided 0 pressure on 8 of the plays and ok pressure 2 times one of those plays being where he jumped in on Heywards sack. He dropped into coverage roughly 4 times depending on how you perceive what he was actually doing, sometimes he just kinda stands there and does nothing. And yes you were correct he was double teamed……1 time and it looked accidental. I haven’t had time to watch the 2nd half again so maybe with all the success he had in the 1st half they decided to double team him but I doubt it.

  • http://www.nyob.com/ Dr. Doom

    Fairly evaluate troy’s play barely above the line

  • http://www.nyob.com/ Dr. Doom

    he could have forty sacks and some of you people would complain.

  • whisn

    I just watched the whole game on coaches film. I’d say he had two meaningful pressures the whole game and a couple of good tackles.

    I’d say he was double team blocked 3 times, no more.

    He ended up slipping 3 times rushing the passer, twice in the first quarter, could use some longer cleats.

    I did notice 1st quarter 4.29, on the free play that happened when Troy jumped offsides that Lamarr came untouched between the tackle and te and fails to even attempt a tackle on the running back who was right by him,…this was the TD that was overruled after Gay made the stop.

    Go take a look.

  • Jason

    40 Sacks And I Promise I Won’t Complain. lol

  • http://www.nyob.com/ Dr. Doom

    neither would I Id buy two jerseys

  • charles

    Good players make big plays in big games. That is why James and Troy were defensive players of the year. These stats are certainly misleading when I saw Tom Braidy break out his mirror and comb his hair just before he hit Amendola on a long play that took a lot of time to develop.
    To Woodley’s credit, I think the flaw is in the scheme. 31 pts should be enough to win a game. I haven’t looked at the stats for this game, but I know some general (over many games) stats that are unacceptable for a championship team: league fewest sacks, league fewest turnovers. This D is like 67 and 68: TERRIBLE.
    I also know that our D’s abysmal play is directly related to Goodell’s taking away the Steelers (notice that I did not say Woodley) and Tomlins best asset: intimidating defensive hits.

  • Mike Sweeney

    Total could possibly be better, if there was some, I mean alot more pressure and disturbance, from the right side

  • charles

    That is Woodley’s achilles heel Too much bulk equals Too slow

  • charles

    It was play action that kept frezing the D. Last week was the same. If Oakland had not tried to run out the clock for the entire second half, they probably could have scored more than 35.

  • SumnerYoung

    Does it matter that Woodley is typically working against the inferior tackle on the other team? I believe it does. If he is an elite defensive player, as his stupendous contract suggests, shouldn’t he have even better numbers since he is playing against Right Tackles? James Harrison had to go against Left Tackles every week, and almost always, the Left Tackle is more dominant than the Right Tackle. I think you have to keep this in mind when analyzing the PFF stats you are presenting. Unless PFF has assigned a weighting system or something like that to account for this.

  • dkoy85

    Sorry should have been more clear. I’m not saying Jarvis bulk up to the point where it effects his quickness, since thats what made him a feared pass rusher in college. I’m saying he bulks up enough to be able to move some tackles with brute force and quickness.

    You think there is a problem with Woodley? Right now he is our best defensive player? Pretty sure he has a good balance of bulk and quickness.

  • charles

    Agreed on Jarvis. Harrison did have a perfect match of strength and quickness and Jones would do well to copy that.
    As for Lamar, I have never been a big fan, he is a Steeler though, and you are right. He is our best defensive player on a not very good defense. There is hope for these guys though, if we can get what is clearly needed… a scheme change in defensive philosophy.

  • dkoy85

    I agree charles- somethings gotta change and it starts with the top. I am certainly no expert but I feel like LeBeau should create some stunts for Jarvis and use his speed and natural abilities. Right now I don’t think he has the strength to match his speed to get it done on the outside.

    I’m anxious to see what the coming weeks bring- Maybe this 2-6 start is exactly what we need to change up some philosophies and start getting after the QB.

  • http://www.nyob.com/ Dr. Doom

    Depends if the QB is right or Left Handed then the RT is the more superior Blocker.

  • SumnerYoung

    Exactly, Dr. Doom. I think Woodley is having a pretty good season. But it seems he is paid like a dominant ROLB, which he is not.

  • charles

    The one and only improvement this team needs is pressure on the qb. Locker had all day Pryor had all day and if Brady has a clean uniform you get what we got. This was not an anomoly. It began three years ago and one of the worst NFL qbs EVER toasted us. This is not on the players, IT IS THIS F’ING STUPID 3-4 THAT TIES UP THREE OF OUR DEFENSIVE PLAYERS,?!?