Let The Calf Beating Season Commence

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.

  • Steve

    Woodley has to be let go. Colbert needs to learn from his mistakes and quit holding onto overpriced aging players. It has hurt the entire organization. Can’t make the same mistake with Worilds as they did with Lewis. Sign the core young players and let the aging, injury prone players go as they used to do.

  • Jason

    Love This Site But Its So Pro Woodley Its Disgusting. I Can’t Remember 1 Article Where He Is Criticized And He Clearly Deserves To Be. But Hey Pro Football Focus Says He’s Good So We Should Ignore What We Actually See. And I Have No Idea Why My Phone Capitalizes The First Letter Of Every Word.

  • Russ Ruffing

    I don’t care what PFF has to say about Woodley’s production. Any moron with eyes can tell that Worilds is three times the player that Woodley is right now. Woodley has sucked for three seasons, even when not injured. Worilds makes so much more happen than Woodley does it’s not even funny.

  • Bill Molinaro

    If they find a way to reduce his cap hit, they should take it. This is the modern, salary capped, free agent NFL, You can’t keep players who no longer deliver just because they once were great. And you must learn how to get what you want from young players!

  • grw1960

    From the time Woodley was drafted in 2007 till he was injured in 2011. Woodley was as good as any OLB in the NFL. And I have no problem with the big contract they gave him……….
    I just think they gambled a little too much ( on a player that missed a lot of the 2011 and 2012 season) when the Steelers restructured Woodley that last time……
    And his dead money cap hit over the next 2 seasons , is what will hurt the Steelers the most.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Both Ben and Troy have been injured quite a bit during there careers and we do not give them the same scrutiny. Next year if Woodley is having problems again then I say we need to take a deeper look into things. The guy can still play at a high level.

  • chris ward

    I think it would be a good decision for Woodley to train with Tom Shaw. Shaw has a great track record and it has worked out well for guys like Ike Taylor and William Gay.

  • RW

    I guess my question is this: Is “hasn’t been awful” worth the money we have and will be paying him?

  • RW

    Two things you need to keep in mind: 1) When their backups come in they can’t perform on nearly the level that Ben or Troy can in any given game and 2) When they have come back from injury, their performance has been “well above the line”. I won’t argue that Woodley has been effective, he just isn’t dominant.

  • Rick M

    I don’t usually defend recent management decisions, but I can’t blame the Steelers’ for Woodley’s original contract. He had shown virtually no sign of injury; if we’re being honest he was a terror from the right side; and he was entering the prime of his career. But you pretty much have to agree now that the contract is a millstone around the team’s neck given his lack of playing time and his slump in production.

    The thing that worries me most is that Worilds seems a one-year wonder in his contract year. And unlike Woodley before his second contract, Jason has an injury history. I guess you have to roll the dice releasing Woodley and signing the younger Worilds. But as a Steelers’ fan, you have to cross your fingers and toes hoping that Worilds justifies the new contract. If he becomes Woodley2 (big contract but significant lost playing time), it’ll really hurt the franchise.

  • Aric Brown

    Worilds, over the course of his career, has stepped in and played well almost always. My issue with Worilds is that he too, has spent the better part of his career being injured

  • Douglas Andrews

    Woodley should train with Tom Shaw and maybe see the Physical Therapist that Troy worked with.

  • Rick M

    Respectfully Aric, he didn’t display the bull rush power and relentlessness – even from the left side – that he’s shown this year. A lot of us, myself included, were questioning if he was the long-term answer at OLB. He’s been a really pleasant surprise. If you saw this all along, kudos.

  • HopalongCassidy

    I think the lesson to be learned here is that outside of your franchise QB, overpaying any other position player is a big mistake. Woodley is such an example. Any one player outside of QB is only one of eleven on the field. If you pay that one too much, it shortchanges the team on the ability to pay for some better players at other positions. Then, if that high priced player is hurt or no longer performs well, what have you got ?
    Outside of QB, there has to be a limit on how much any one guy is worth in my opinion. Given where the Steelers at right now and looking toward the future I think they must let Polamalu, Keisel and Clark go after the season. They need to try and resign Worilds but not at Woodley type money. There has to be a reasonable limit. I’d make Woodley a June 1st cut if they can resign Worilds.

  • Aric Brown

    Looking at his career stats his sacks have elevated this year. 0 starts in 2010 with 2 sacks (his lone solo tackles on the year) 14 total games played. 7 starts in 2011 with 3 sacks and 25 total tackles with 12 total games played. Last year he had very limited work while playing in all 16 games he only had 3 starts producing 5 sacks and 18 tackles. And his body of work this year is seemingly much better but with 10 starts he’s registered 7 sacks with 34 tackles. IMO very comparable numbers

  • Jacob Dixon

    Trade him

  • Jason

    To who and for what? In order to pull off a trade you’ll have to find a GM dumb enough to take on this contract for an overrated LB who gives you 10 games a season.

  • Jason

    I agree with your point but in order to not “overpay” other position players all 32 teams would have to have the same philosophy or you would simply lose all your stars to teams willing to pay them.

  • Jacob Dixon

    There are dumb GMs out there and to a team that wants him and a draft pick

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Rick M –

    I agree with everything you just said so I will just say… Amen.

  • Rick M

    Thanks Star, best of the season to you,

  • Betz Smiff

    Woodley has been injury prone but not a bad player when he can keep himself on the field…..Worilds also has been injury prone in his career thus the lack of any productivity until the past 6 or so games. If they sign him for big money I am afraid we may be talking about how bad a cap hit his contract is in a couple years …