Prior to Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley being placed on season-ending injured reserve on Tuesday, head coach Mike Tomlin was asked to describe his play when he has been healthy.
"He's been solid, not only this season, but over the course of his career," said Tomlin. "But obviously, particularly in recent years, he's had to battle some injuries, unfortunately for him and for us."
While Woodley's injuries certainly have been frustrating to watch dating back to the middle of the 2011 season, especially when you take into the account how much money he makes, he hasn't been awful when he has been on the field. In the 24 games that he's played in over the course of the last two seasons, Woodley has registered nine sacks, 16 hits and 38 hurries in 451 pass rushing opportunities, according to Pro Football Focus, and that equates to an 11.0 pass rushing productivity number.
To put that into perspective, Jason Worilds has seven sacks, 21 hits and 20 hurries so far this season in 350 pass rushing opportunities and that equates to a 10.8 pass rushing productivity number. The difference between Woodley and Worilds right now of course is the fact that the latter has stayed on the field and is nearly three and a half years younger than the former.
Are Woodley's injury issues a result of poor training or just a result of age combined with wear and tear? Is it a combination of all of the above? All of us can speculate, but none of us know for sure.
We will be beating these calves for the next few months as the Steelers are faced with a couple of big decisions as it relates to keeping either Woodley or Worilds, who will be an unrestricted free agent in a matter of weeks. If Woodley is indeed released, one would think it would be with the June 1st designation as it is very unlikely that he will agree to a drop in salary. Before such a move is made, however, Worilds, who will undoubtedly be a top free agent target during the offseason, needs to be locked up long-term and that will need to happen very quickly.
So when will know the path that the Steelers will take? Being as the new league year starts on March 11th, we should know the fate of Worilds within 90 days from now. Depending on what happens with him, it shouldn't be hard to figure out what Woodley's fate will be, if it hasn't already been decided by then.
In the meantime, if I am Woodley, I call renowned trainer Tom Shaw once I am fully healthy and see if his offer from last offseason still stands. What can it hurt?
Let the calf beating season commence.