Versatile Al Woods Played Above The Line Against The Bengals

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.

  • steeltown

    Indeed, lock him up, he can literally backup the entire DLine


    Could some of you Defensive Line gurus explain the difference between the skill sets of Woods and McLendon? Would we be better off with Woods at NT and McLendon at DE instead of Ziggy? Thanks.

  • Ken

    I think this guy has more upside than McClendon, he is big enough to hold his ground and can be very disruptive when he wants to be. Definitely need to lock him up for years.

  • Ken

    I kind of agree that McLendon is a good player, but he isn’t a rock like Hampton was (few people are). But that’s what a 3-4 nose tackle has to be or the whole defense suffers. I think Mclendon could play anywhere on the line be respectable. I thought Ziggy has played pretty decent as of late though.

  • Mike Carroll

    It’s players like Al Woods that make me hope the Steelers transfer lots of cap dollars from a few aging vets to the many young players that will form the team moving forward, especially on the defensive side of the ball. They’ll have a great opportunity to lock up quite a few younger players at reasonable salaries this offseason. Signing reasonable contracts now will mean they’ll be able to improve the 53 man roster even more in the future because they won’t be hamstrung by a handful of oversized contracts.

    If they were to release a player like Troy this offseason, it will hurt in the immediate short term. But, you know what? They’ll find another safety. I’m tired of the front office managing the salary cap as if 7-8 players constitute 75% of the team.

  • JohnnyV1

    Agree, he’s a keeper. Ziggy also is playing pretty well when he gets in, or starts if someone’s out. Wouldn’t be bad to have both back.

  • Mike Carroll

    I thought that was promising game by Woods. His stature kind of reminds of Kimo Von Oelhoffen.

  • Jollyrob68

    I want to keep Woods,Ziggy and keep Arnfelt on the 53 man roster to secure him for next year. McLendon is signed already. Release the aging vets and revamp that Defense including promoting Keith Butler

  • Douglas Andrews

    Woods played well against Cincy. But wasn’t he playing against a backup C? Still i have to give Woods credit he easily got the better of him.

  • Douglas Andrews

    There are a few players on this roster the Steelers have to lock up right after season ends and Woods is one of those players.

  • Luke Shabro

    I’ve never been a huge Ziggy fan but boy would I like to see him and Al signed so we have some depth. Cam, McClendon, Al, Ziggy, Arnfelt and possibly Keisel as depth as well next year and draft someone else in Rds 3-7. Just my thoughts. I think Woods is larger than Stevie McClendon but McClendon has actually done pretty well I think. I am no D line guru though

  • I actually like the push that Woods gets much better than what I have seen from McClendon myself.

  • HopalongCassidy

    The fact that the team has some decent D linemen but no beast NT goes to the point I have made before. I think given the teams personnel, they should play a 4 man D line as their base defense. I think they could get more pressure on the QB that way without having to rush linebackers as much and would be better against the run up front. Get that beast at NT and I’ll change my opinion.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    James, to answer your question –

    Steve McLendon’s pro day measurements (in March of 2009) were 6’1″ 306 lbs. It is speculated that his arm length is in the 32″ range. He was quoted this last preseason (by Wexell) saying he was up to 327 pounds.

    Al Woods’s pro day measurements (in March of 2010) were 6’3.5″ 309 pounds, with nearly 36″ arms, and the best vertical leap of any DT at the combine. It is speculated he is currently up to about 320 pounds.

    A 3-4 nose tackle’s job is typically two fold. Against the run, he must squat his butt down and not get moved backwards/sideways, even if he’s double teamed or moving laterally. Against the pass, he must occupy two blockers so the LBs can get a free shot to the QB.

    A 3-4 DE does many of the same assignments but he’s doing it against OT’s (6’5″ 320 with 35″ arms) instead of OC’s (6’2″ 300 with 33″ arms).

    McLendon is quite strong, but his best skill set is moving quickly and penetrating into the backfield. He put on more weight to try to anchor better, which he has improved (somewhat) but his lack of arm length makes it difficult to get off blocks against OT’s. That is why the Steelers don’t want him at DE.

    Woods is strong as well. He is (supposedly) not quite as quick as McLendon and has a higher center of gravity, but recently Woods has shown improved ability to get low and anchor against double teams, which makes him productive at the NT. But he also has very long arms, so he can flex out to the DE position and get off blocks from the long armed OT’s as well.

    Ziggy is very strong but is terrible at anchoring. That’s why he can’t play NT. The problem is he’s not long enough and doesn’t have the technique to get off blocks, so he doesn’t make a lot of plays (that come right at him) and thus he doesn’t demand a double team.

    The Steelers currently have no “true” “Casey Hampton type” nose tackle, so our run defense has suffered dramatically (19th in the NFL). But those elite pro bowl NT’s are hard to find. If they are so huge that they can anchor, they typically can’t rush the passer. And vice versa.

    I personally think our best 3-4 base package line up going forward is Heyward (DE) – McLendon (NT) – Woods (DE). Let Keisel and Hood go. Use the extra saved money to bring in a solid NT and let Arnfelt back up both DE spots. The Steelers will never do that though because that means going with young “unproven” guys.

  • hp b

    Who knows, it’s early yet for big Al, but he reminds me of Jerry Ball.


    Thank you, S S S. I appreciate the time and effort required for your response.