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Steelers See Al Woods As A Prototype Nose Tackle Moving Forward


Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman Al Woods has quietly logged 76 snaps on defense so far this season with most of them coming at the nose tackle position in relief of starter Steve McLendon in the base defense. This past week, defensive line coach John Mitchell was asked by David Todd of ESPN 970 to talk about the progress Woods has made since arriving in Pittsburgh a few years ago.

"Al Woods has really made a lot of strides and progress since he's been here," said Mitchell. "He came back a little slow, a few pounds over weight. He's got the weight off of him, we've moved him inside from end to nose and we like to use him at end at times when we have to give Cam, Ziggy or Brett a rest. But I'm really pleased with Al. Al's a young guy who's going to be a good football player for us."

So does Mitchell see Woods as more of a nose tackle or a defensive end moving forward?

"Well, he's going to have to go both ways, because I go into a game with five, so my backup nose has got to play end, but we felt Al was more suited to be inside," said Mitchell. "He's got a big, thick body, he's heavy, he's a prototype nose tackle and we feel if we had to finish a game with Al at end, that he'd do an incredible job for us."

Just like defensive ends Ziggy Hood and Brett Keisel, Woods, too, will be an unrestricted free agent after the season is over. Being as the Steelers consider him a nose tackle that can play defensive end in a pinch, you would think they would want him back next year at the minimum if at all possible.

Like or not, the Steelers are happy with McLendon as their starter right now at nose tackle and with Hebron Fangupo also currently on the roster and under contract through 2015, you can probably forget about a nose tackle being drafted in the early rounds of the 2014 NFL Draft. Sorry, Louis Nix fans.

If the Steelers are to draft a defensive lineman early, they will more than likely be looking for another defensive end, being as there is no guarantee that Hood and Keisel will be back next season. Sure, they have Nick Williams and Brian Arnfelt currently waiting in the wings, but both are considered projects right now.

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About Dave Bryan

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • blackandgoldBullion

    That is actually great to hear, but I wish Fangupo would get just a little playing time to see what he can do for the team.

    Arnfelt, Arnfelt, Arnfelt!!!! I don’t care that he was playing against 2′s and 3′s in pre-season, this guy is going to be a stud! He was shedding double teams, fighting like a true old-time, hard as nails, prototypical Steeler. One day you will see him play the run well, rush well and do everything necessary to be a great DE. Never mind what he does in practice, just throw him out there on game day, and you’ll see that he plays like he’s possessed. One strong SOB! I can hardly wait for next year.

  • dgh57

    We play so many sub packages while on defense and the NFL becoming more of a passing League that a true NT in the draft doesn’t make sense, especially if we resign Woods.

  • JAMESH

    Zackly, dgh. Vince Williams saw only 7 snaps against the Lions so that shows how many times the “base” defense was used. McLendon only saw 15 snaps and over half of them were not at NT but rather going alongside Al Woods in relief of Heyward/Hood. Of the 73 defensive plays in the LIons game, over 65 of them utilized Professor LeBeau’s 2-3-6 alignment. With more teams using multiple TEs and spread formations more often in a league with rules favoring a pass-happy arena-football style offense, LeBeau is trying to get as many DBs on the field as reasonable. The tradeoff is one less DLman and one less LB. People who claim LeBeau is stubborn or doesn’t evolve with the game are………….(fill in the blank)

  • dgh57

    I’m a big fan of Arnfelt also! I don’t remember what his stat line was from the preseason was but I do remember him taking on double teams and getting down the line to make tackles. We have some DEs in the last year of their contracts so Arnfelt may be the answer to one of them.

  • Douglas Andrews

    I like Al Woods it will be interesting to see if the Steelers can re-sign him. Being as he can play end and NT it would be great to have a guy like that along with the other projects Nick Williams and Brian Arnfelt.

  • HopalongCassidy

    I would love to see the Steelers try the 4-3 defense as their base. I think you need to adapt to the players you have and I think what they have better suits a 4-3 at this point in time.. That’s just my opinion but I doubt LeBeau will ever change so we’ll never know.

  • ScottB

    LOUIS nix not lucas. Sad the Steelers won’t address what could be the biggest hole in their defense. I don’t care who is signed to what they need to stop allowing the run up the middle. Nix would really positively impact the defense. Why they continue to ignore needs is beyond me.

  • DoctorNoah

    Don’t you worry that we are overusing the quarters package? It’s going to get very predictable at some point soon, and watching even our Big Guy DB Willie Gay against the likes of modern TE’s or makes me nervous. Have we been drafting the wrong personnel? Do we need more large DB’s instead of our underutilized LB’s? We have a dozen LB’s and always seem a little undersized at DB with the exception of Troy. I wonder if Spence is an answer here. But it makes me skeptical of all this nose tackle talk as well.

  • cencalsteeler

    That’s good news. That should free up draft space to go get those big offensive weapons we need and those safety and cbs.

  • JAMESH

    Maybe next camp we’ll see them try Woods at NT with Heyward and McLendon at DE. Sign Keisel to a one year vet minimum deal as a backup with Arnfelt and Fangupo and let Ziggy boogie. It best utilizes the players’ strengths, saves some cap space and doesn’t cost a draft pick.

  • JohnB

    The only way they should draft a Dlineman in Round 1 is if they KNOW he can come in and be disruptive in game one. I don’t want to go against the steelers grain here but we need a sexy pick this year, ladies and gents. A tall WR, TE or something.

  • Eric

    I would like the Steelers to be 4-3 capable so we can put in a 3-4 or a 4-3 at any time and offenses will never know what is coming

  • AndyR34

    You are making an analysis based upon one game???

  • Eric

    Nix would be a great pick, but we unfortunately still need the OT in round 1. We could get McCullers in round 3. Have you seen the size of that giant?

  • Eric

    That is what I would do if nothing different happens before camp.

  • DoctorNoah

    Not really. We’ve been increasingly playing quarters. For a number of games. And the type of heavy passing attack we’re up against is a big trend in the NFL and has been over the past several seasons. You can see tons of thoughts about defending 4-5WR or big catching TE sets

  • frednash

    I just looked McCuller up
    he’s really big

  • JAMESH

    Why? Wasn’t Landry Jones enough for you last year?

  • Rotten Sircus

    Al Woods is clearly better than McClendon ..Whatever happened to Almeda Tamu ???

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