By Matthew Marczi
It has been interesting watching Al Woods as the season progressed and his snap count increased from game to game, in part due to injury to either Steve McLendon or Brett Keisel and in part due to the earned trust of the coaching staff.
While his performance has at times been a mixed bag—which is to be expected from a reserve that prior to now has had only limited playing experience—he does at times display flashes of potential.
Heading into the offseason as a free agent, along with Keisel and Ziggy Hood, Woods has more than stated his case to be brought back to continue to be a part of the defensive line rotation for the Steelers.
In reality, it’s difficult to accurately assign blame on this mid-first quarter explosive run by Edwin Baker; it’s not clear if the Steelers properly executed their assignments. Based on the development of the gaps as the play evolved, it seems at least that Lawrence Timmons should have filled the gap left between Woods and the rushing Vince Williams.
Still, Woods contributed to the sizable gap that formed by allowing himself to be turned by right guard John Greco, and then proceeded to gain no penetration. Likely all three are to be blamed in part for the development of the play.
Woods did fare better for most of the rest of the game, particularly in his push against the pass, such as on the very next play. Though the pass actually connected for four yards—and the entire play was negated by a penalty on Cortez Allen—Woods got excellent push against reserve left guard Garrett Gilkey.
On the next play, he crossed the face of the right guard, in the process clanking him into center Alex Mack, in order to get penetration in the backfield on a running play. Had Cameron Heyward not already been there, he would have had himself a solo tackle for loss.
Woods also finished off the day with his second tipped pass in the last three games. With just a minute left to play, he managed to position himself between guard and center into Jason Campbell’s passing lane and got his hand up in time to make a coordinated effort to swat the ball down.