Tomlin Getting Offensive With His Outside Linebackers

By Matthew Marczi

Mike Tomlin was asked yesterday to comment on what insight he might have gained regarding the situation at outside linebacker based on what he’d seen in LaMarr Woodley’s return from a three-game absence, as well as in the linebacker rotation that saw Woodley play heavily on the right side for the first time in his career.

Tomlin first stressed that the team’s primary objective during this week’s game—as far as taking a look at the linebackers is concerned—was getting Woodley re-acclimated and getting some snaps back under his belt to see where he is not only from a performance standpoint, but also from a conditioning standpoint.

The head coach felt that Woodley showed fine in both regards from this past game, which now allows him and the coaching staff to ponder more adventurous ideas in future games.

“This week we may take a different approach and take an offensive approach in terms of how we deploy them—or maybe even deploy all of them at once”. Not that that would be new, of course. Tomlin and Dick LeBeau had already begun experimenting with using all three at once before Woodley’s injury.

When asked about moving Jason Worilds inside, Tomlin was quick to add that “any of the guys” were inside-capable, although he may have mistook the meaning of the question. Tomlin was of course referring to their ability, mainly, to blitz from an inside position, not to play inside linebacker on an every-down basis.

Tomlin drew a parallel between the predicament the Steelers find themselves in with the one the Bengals are now dealing with after the loss of Geno Atkins, saying that it forced them to be more versatile and to provide hybrid fronts.

He added that the Steelers could potentially use a similar hybrid front on certain pass-rushing occasions with their three outside linebackers—which, again, is something that they have already done in isolated instances.

The most interesting comment to me though was that Tomlin used the phrase “an offensive approach” in describing how they might use the outside linebackers going forward, which would perhaps be something new.

Worilds has clearly raised his stature significantly over the course of the past month and made him a more viable pass-rushing threat. Woodley has consistently provided pressure on the rush all season when healthy, even if his sack total doesn’t necessarily reflect that.

Adding Jones to the mix—who had been effective in running certain stunts to get Worilds free—opens up a new dimension in the Steelers’ defense that they may never have played with had they not been forced to explore those options because of injuries. While it is invention birthed by necessity, if the results are sufficiently impressive, it could be a new toy that LeBeau will continue to use in the future.

About the Author

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

    ‘An offensive approach’ conjures visions of two outside backers lined up on either side, with the 3rd initially lined up on one side or the other and then going in motion to a designated spot just before the snap. That would certainly be an interesting concept.

  • Virdin Barzey

    Well, they are going to need a whole lot of new toys because the old toys aren’t working. Pola, Clark, Keisel and Taylor have little to no shelf life left so they better figure this mess out quickly or the rebuilding process will take much longer.

  • 2443scott

    i think steelers are spending way to much time moving players around on both sides of the ball and not enough time training one guy to do his job and the back up doing his ….if you have a guy rushing passer then have him stop doing that and fall back in to pass coverage he will never learn the guys who play in league from experience each guy be diff to him over time ….and if you have a guard playing guard then take him and move him to left tackle how will he ever learn what the other guys on line weakness are …plus if you got a guy at left tackle who moves to te or guard how will he ever learn how to block and stop the outside lbers or de from getting to qb……its just like a guy learning to make a pizza if he does it for a week then dont for 4 weeks how will he ever make a good pizza far as woodley goes he needs to see the person troy did with his leg probs i see woodley falling off because he has those probs with his legs and it effects him and his age is creeping up i see woodley gone in year or two if he dont get that fixed ….

  • treeher

    I wouldn’t have believed it early on, but injuries have screwed up the D more than the O this year. We really never recovered from losing Foote the way we recovered from losing Pouncey. It kills me to see Troy playing linebacker when he needs to be back at Safety helping those guys. Lost season in that respect.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    Come on, guys! When he said “offensively” he meant to let Worilds rack up stats, so he can give us 3rd round compensary pick… 😀

  • cencalsteeler

    I like the idea of those 3 mentioned up there in the box together. Now maybe they can put Troy back where he belongs, in the strong safety position!

  • steeltown

    Yea if Woodley again misses multiple games next season, then he might be gone by 2015 when his dead money charge is far less

  • steeltown

    Clark and Taylor yes, they have been missing tackles and getting caught out of position quite a bit this whole season, but Polamalu has been pretty solid, he had 2 maybe 3 games where he was caught out of position or like against MIA when he missed two big tackles, but overall he has been healthy and has contributed in a positive way

  • Jarod Wells

    Somewhat off-subject; but I would think Woodley could play on the right given his strength, because Harrison was more of a strength pass rusher than athletic as well. They put stronger RT’s on the right, so it makes sense that the athletic Worilds can play the OLB pos. I wonder if they will try this approach with jones?

  • Jonathon Bert Schade

    Has anybody here seen my old friend Aaron?
    ” ” Casey?

  • sean mcmartin

    All is not so bleak Steelers fans..According to Ed Bouchette’s blog..
    WORILDS COULD ACTUALLY BE SIGNED..woodley could hit the bricks if he refuses a pay cut..

    Ed Bouchette: I keep hearing about that $14 M figure, but that would be if they cut him before June 1. If they designated him for June 2 or cut him then, he would count only $5.5 M on their cap this year and SAVE them $8 million in cap room and real money.

  • Jollyrob68

    I thanks then and Dick LeBeau For the memories and look forward to moving on in 2014 without them all.

  • sean mcmartin

    Exactly. Troy is playing LB due to the fact the front guys cant stop the run.So many fans say hes done, yet he has stayed healthy all season and is still better than most players on Defense. now turn Ike into a safety like rod woodson did.

  • Jollyrob68

    DID you listen to Rondey Harrison’s comments when we played The Pats. Troy Guesses and Brady alway’s baits him. Time for a New Defensive Concept & Leadership. They can stay with the 34 but through different eyes. IT’S PAST TIME.

  • HopalongCassidy

    Time to play the younger players and give them some experience. The old vets didn’t get it done and they are not the ticket to any future winning seasons.

  • Rick M

    Golly treeher. New England lost their dominating presence in the middle, Vince Wilfork, and their defensive signal caller, Jerod Mayo. Both these Pro Bowlers were put on IR early in the season and the Patriots are 10-3.

    You seriously think the loss of 33-year-old Foote was that significant? I agree that it didn’t help, but i think the overall Steelers’ defence is too old and lacks sufficient talent, whether Foote is playing or not.

    I do agree wholeheartedly the Troy’s play has been affected.

  • treeher

    Obviously NE had talent to replace what they lost. We, on the other hand, tried to start rookies in LeBeau’s scheme. When that didn’t work, Troy is told to play linebacker (at 210 pounds!). I’m just sayin …

  • Rick M

    The Steelers did not solely try to replace Foote with a rookie. They also tried Kion Wilson (who had been with two other NFL teams) and Stevenson Sylvester.

    As you say NE has the back-up talent to replace the two mainstays of their defence. The Steelers clearly do not have good back-up talent and that lies with management.

  • Elijah Stevenson

    Troy is offsetting LB because Larry Foote is in injured reserve.

  • Elijah Stevenson

    The funny thing is Woodley is only 27 and players older than him have been healthy all year like polamalu Clark Taylor and Ben

  • Elijah Stevenson

    The funny thing is Woodley is only 27

  • Elijah Stevenson

    If only there was a way to make Jack Lambert young again.

  • sean mcmartin

    yes it would be nice ..Along side a young Greg Lloyd , levon kirkland and Joey porter..

  • steeltown

    I think Woodley’s 29yrs old, but yes I see your point

  • Foote’s injury was relatively minor to the season. Several things killed the defense this year:
    1: Foote’s injury did force them to play Vince Williams before he was ready, and contributed some to Troy playing LB, but there is also:
    2: The aging secondary hit a wall. Clark has struggled mightily. Troy is partly playing LB because he doesn’t have the closing ability that he once had. Ike is on the decline and has been abused several times throughout the year.
    3: Allen wasn’t ready to replace Keenan Lewis. Willie Gay has probably been our best CB overall this season. Allen has potential, but he would have been better served with another year as the #3.
    4: No answers on the defensive line. McClendon, while he has done alright, is not a full time NT and it shows in the run game. It took them several games to see that Heyward is a much better DE than Hood (he’s had a better season in his first 10 starts than Hood had as either season as a full time starter).
    5: Jarvis Jones has not yet been the playmaker they hoped for. After 12 games he has 1 sack, 3 passes defensed and 2 tackles for a loss. We expected better from a first round pick. Add to that, we have yet to find a good way to get Worilds and Woodley on the field together, and Worilds is playing better than Woodley has since 2011.

    None of these things are a recipe for good defense. Blaming injuries is a pure cop out.

  • Whose fault is it if the talent/depth isn’t there again?

  • “i think steelers are spending way to much time moving players around on
    both sides of the ball and not enough time training one guy to do his
    job and the back up doing his”

    I think this is one of Tomlin’s major failings. He flip-flops on who should play where too much and guys never get comfortable.

  • Troy hasn’t been awful, but this is a rosy picture of him. His game against NE was one of the worst games he has ever played.

  • As this point, LB may be the best spot for Troy. His coverage skills, where were never great, are not what they once were.

  • CrazyTerry

    Don’t quite a few top level LBs rush from different spots? Suggs is all over the line at times. Why did it take this long to try Woodley at that spot?

  • Don

    Yes, funny how the loss of foote went relatively unnoticed.. but, it has hurt the defense and therefore the entire team worse than any other of the injuries this season..I only hope that ILB is figured out in the off season because this is the primary reason the Steelers are struggling so much on the defense…and why TP has suffered in his play as well.

  • Elijah Stevenson

    Now your talkin

  • Elijah Stevenson

    I just looked up his age and he is 27, even if he was 29 that’s still pretty young to have calf issues.

  • Elijah Stevenson

    Moving troy at LB is like tomlin moving Clark at D-line when he looks like 100 pounds.

  • Elijah Stevenson

    My mistake he is 29