Pittsburgh Steelers 2014 Free Agents Analysis – DE-NT – Al Woods – Unrestricted

By Matthew Marczi

Player: Al Woods

Position: Defensive End/Nose Tackle

Experience: 4 Years

Free Agent Status: Unrestricted

2013 Salary Cap Hit: $630,000

2013 Season Breakdown: Even though the Pittsburgh Steelers were reportedly interested in Al Woods in the 2010 NFL Draft, it wasn’t until later that season when the New Orleans Saints released him that the Steelers signed him to their practice squad. He was later picked up by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It would be another year before Pittsburgh was able to get him back, after the Seattle Seahawks released him mid-season in 2011.

Despite that, Woods hardly saw any playing time along the defensive line in 2012. Yet with the absence of Casey Hampton this summer, Woods was given the opportunity to run as the second-team nose tackle, ahead of Alameda Ta’amu and Hebron Fangupo—proper nose tackles—which served him well in preparing him for some playing time this season.

Woods wasn’t overly active early on, averaging only about 8-10 snaps per game for the majority of the season. With the limited amount of playing time, he had difficulty doing much to distinguish himself behind the top three defensive ends on the depth chart, and with the Steelers using so much sub-package football, even Steve McLendon was struggling to garner time at nose tackle.

It wasn’t until later in the year, when McLendon suffered an injury, that Woods was able to log significant snaps in a game, starting with the Cleveland Browns. In that first meeting between the two teams, Woods managed to notch not one, but two sacks in 33 snaps, and he also made four tackles.

Woods started at nose tackle twice over the course of the next three weeks as McLendon battled his injured ankle. He had a fairly quiet game in his first start, but he played his best ball a couple weeks later against the Cincinnati Bengals, again notching four tackles in 37 snaps, while also batting down a pass.

The two games bookmarking that start against the Bengals saw Woods struggle some, particularly when it came to playing the run. He also had some issues in the season finale. For his first year as a regular contributor, however, he played very admirably, especially given the fact that he was asked to play at multiple positions.

Free Agency Outlook: I would be lying if I said I knew what the Steelers planned to do right now. That’s because I don’t know what the team’s intentions are when it comes to long-term plans for the defensive line. If they don’t see McLendon as a long-term answer at nose tackle, they could draft one, and move McLendon back to defensive end in a year or two.

That would play in the favor of Brett Keisel to be brought back for another year or two. It would also decrease the need to bring Woods back. If I were to guess, however, pre-free agency, pre-draft, I would think that Woods would be in their plans as a versatile player that knows the defense. He could bump Ziggy Hood out of the picture as a cheaper option, though that’s far from assured. Woods himself still has a lot to show before he can be counted upon.

Other Steelers Free Agent Player Analysis
Ryan Clark – Unrestricted Free Agent
Emmanuel Sanders – Unrestricted Free Agent
Brett Keisel – Unrestricted Free Agent
Jerricho Cotchery – Unrestricted Free Agent
Ziggy Hood – Unrestricted Free Agent
Jason Worilds – Unrestricted Free Agent
David Johnson – Unrestricted Free Agent
Jonathan Dwyer – Unrestricted Free Agent
Fernando Velasco – Unrestricted Free Agent
Cody Wallace – Unrestricted Free Agent
Will Allen – Unrestricted Free Agent
Stevenson Sylvester – Unrestricted Free Agent
Felix Jones – Unrestricted Free Agent

About the Author

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

    Re-sign Al Woods (2-3yrs) and Keisel (1 yr), extend Heyward and let Hood walk, move forward with Arnfelt, N.Williams and Lapuaho and possibly draft DL if someone falls to them….. just my opinion

    Unless, unless for some reason Hood agrees to a very very modest deal

  • Chad H

    Don’t count out Tuitt in the 1st rd either. I don’t believe Hood will be back but we will see.

  • HopalongCassidy

    Agree so long as Keisel is signed fairly cheap.

  • Davide Fontana

    i thought mclendon could play de immediately not to wait one year or two

  • steeltown

    Vet minimum I would assume

  • steeltown

    I think he meant more for the new rookie NT to get acclimated as the starter

  • David Edward

    I see Woods as the #3 priority FA behind Worilds and Cotchery. With him, you have someone who is NT/DE capable and can potentially fill a starting role at either spot. I like him better at NT, and with some work on his technique, he can be a real plugger in the middle. However, I’m not so sure they are as eager to move McClendon to DE as many of the fans are.

    If they fail to sign Woods, then guys like Tuitt and Hageman become leading candidates for the pick @15 (and they still maybe regardless). Hood is just not the answer if they intend to getter better along the DL. Keisel is more of a last resort if they can’t sign Woods and need him to be the placeholder while a rookie or young guy gets up to speed. Arnfelt and Williams are those young guys, but it’s still a long shot that either would be a starter in ’14 barring injury.

  • Virdin Barzey

    No brainer. Keep Woods…..leave Hood.
    At best he’s a backup….draft a replacement.


    Time to cut the ties with the Beard Steeltown…he got a nice retirement buffer much like A. Smith did…not saying he can’t play anymore, but we can’t keep clinging to the past, and Brett is the past. I’ve heard good thing about N. Williams, Woods is decent, but more than anything I see a lot of 4-3 type DL players without a true NT…Nix is a player, but can’t afford to take him @ 15…this kid, Ray Carrethers, or Zack Zerr could be in play 3rd or 4th round.

  • steeltown

    Regardless there’s no way N.Williams or a newly signed mid-Rd draft pick is starting in ’14, having Keisel one more season for depth purposes is smart and wont break the bank

  • sean mcmartin

    kiesel is worth back-up money, but no longer a starter…I can say I do not have confidence that Tomlin can recognize talent and pick the right players to get to the seventh ring. The Steelers need to hire some winning coaches from seattle or niners.


    Not that you’re trying, but still not sold and I like Kesiel…imo PIT needs to get younger in a hurry while Ben is still in his prime…if the team looked to be on the cusp of another SB run, yes, he makes sense. But, coming off b-t-b .500 seasons and cap strapped trying to resign Worild? No.

    If he wanted to play for the vet min. as you mentioned (which would surprise me) okay, but even then the young players have to start getting on the field.

  • steeltown

    No argument here. I would hope the young guys like Arnfelt and N.Williams get more playing time this year.
    I don’t think Keisel will have a choice, if he wants to play he’ll most likely have to play for a vet contract, he wont have too many suitors

  • westernsteel

    I hope they can resign him, but I am not sure if he will ever be a starter. I can see McClendon as the starting NT for a couple more years, they have talked him up for so long, I dont think they will give up on him yet.

  • BurgherinMD

    I seem to remember him starting at DE against NE in that disastrous Sunday night game in 2010 (Gronkowski 3 tds). Has he ever started another game at DE? He definitely has the size now and is quick so him possibly being tried there is intriguing.

  • alex

    Woods is young and growing…he can be a valuable part of a young growing line lead by Hayward…so many plays to be made in the off season on the D line…

  • Brendon Glad

    I hope they keep him. He seems like quite a load, and with decent feet. I’d like to see it through with him because I think that will reap rewards.