With starting nose tackle Steve McLendon sidelined by an ankle this past Sunday, backup Al Woods was forced to make his second start of the season against the Cincinnati Bengals and he did not disappoint.
“I thought he was above the line,” said head coach Mike Tomlin of Wood’s performance this past week during his Tuesday press conference. “He is a guy like many guys in his circumstance who is getting an opportunity due to the misfortune of someone else.
“He is getting better with it. I thought this performance was better than the last. I thought his pad level was good. I thought he came off blocks and was productive in some areas. I am excited about him.”
Woods, who recorded four total tackles, one quarterback hit and one batted down pass in the game, easily played his best game as a Steeler and it included him playing a career-high 37 snaps.
Even though Woods has filled in nicely at the nose position, Tomlin said he’s versatile enough to play anywhere on the defensive line when the need arises.
“I think just from a physical skill set standpoint, he’s nose capable and end capable,” said Tomlin. “He’s been a guy that’s done both since he’s been here and I think he still falls in that category. He’s a big, strong man, but he also has length that can lend itself to some things that we ask the end position to do as well.”
Woods will be an unrestricted free agent when the season ends, but he should be a player that will be easily retained with a modest two or three year contract. After investing so much time in him, it would be foolish to let him walk off when you consider the lack of experienced depth that the Steelers figure to have next season on the defensive line.