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.