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Nov 25

A Superstar (Not Named Ben) Needs to Go

woodleyThere’s been lots of talk late of trading superstar, Ben Roethlisberger, but I think there’s another name that should be thrown out there. I’m using the term “superstar”  very loosely in his case. The man I’m talking about is the linebacker that received a 6 year 61.5 million dollar contract in 2011, LaMarr Woodley.

SteelDad mentioned on this site prior to the Browns game that since signing that contract, Woodley has played in 32 of 41 games and has a total of 18 sacks. Not exactly “superstar” type of production.

There were whispers around the locker room in 2012 that LaMarr Woodley had put on too much weight, and that was reason for him not being able to stay healthy, and not producing on the field. The word around camp this past pre-season was that he looked to be in much better shape, but we were still not seeing great production prior to his most recent injury.

The Steelers are basically in the midst of a playoff run already. Almost every game is “must win” at this point, and where’s Woodley? Part of me wondered if he sat Sunday, to be ready to go against the Ravens on Thanksgiving night. With how this team has looked though, I think it would be stupid to look past the Browns.

Luckily for the Steelers, Jason Worilds looked great against the Browns yesterday. The box score only shows 5 tackles and 0 sacks, but Worilds was in the face of Browns quarterbacks all day. He also registered 8 tackles and a sack against the Lions last week.

Worilds played well last year in limited snaps as well. Many people took notice of how much better he played from the left side (where he primarily lined up in college) while Woodley was out of the lineup.

I may be jumping the gun on this Worilds over Woodley rant, but I can’t remember the last time I felt that Woodley made the kind of impact that Worilds did yesterday (without even registering a sack). This team despite looking better lately, needs to take a hard look at anyone that’s not playing “above the line,” to borrow one from Coach Tomlin.

I still think this team should error on the side of building for the future, versus winning games now. They may sneak into the playoffs, but they won’t get to a Superbowl this season. If they could trade LaMarr Woodley in order to unload his contract for something like a 3rd or 4th round pick, I think they should do it.

I understand it’s a risky move, but I don’t think anyone can argue Woodley has earned the money he’s been making. Obviously, for a trade to happen you’d need a partner, and that’s a lot of money for a team to take on. However, teams are always in need of pass rushers, and if the Steelers didn’t demand too much I think it could happen. There’s also always a team like the Eagles or Redskins that value a big name over big production.

I’m no cap expert, but from what I understand cutting Woodley would create a bigger cap hit in dead money than keeping him. It still might be worth it if it gets his contract off the books after 2014.

All of this assumes that the Steelers could extend Worilds’ contract for a reasonable amount. Last season the Steelers brought in Victor Butler for a visit. Butler was playing behind Demarcus Ware in Dallas, and had played well in limited snaps but wanted to find somewhere he could start. Sounds a lot like Worilds doesn’t it? Butler eventually signed a 2 year, 3 million dollar contract with the Saints.

I know letting Woodley go seems crazy to some, but it comes down to this. Would you rather have Woodley at 10 million per season (who’s 29 years old) or Jason Worilds at 2-3 million per season (who’s 25 years old)?

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8 comments

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  1. vince mcelroy

    I am very sorry to say that I have to agree with you on this one! The biggest problem is that Tomlin is way too dedicated to certain veteran players on this team! It would take an act of God for Tomlin to even consider doing such a thing. There are a few more players that should be on this list also.

    1. steelbydesign

      I agree with you that this probably isn’t going to happen. It’s just not something the Steelers do.

      But I don’t think it’s because Tomlin is loyal to anyone in particular. In fact, I’d say that’s less the case now. Cowher certainly seemed to have his favorites, but Tomlin has shown he’s willing to give young guys a chance to shine if a vet is struggling. Shamarko Thomas has stolen some reps this season. Cam Heyward was finally put in over Ziggy. Plenty of vets have gone in Tomlin’s tenure like Hines, Harrison, Farrior, etc.

  2. Hit

    If I was in charge of the steelers I would:

    Trade woodley

    Cut, Clark, gay,

    Restructure Troy p.

    Give keisel the veteran min.

    Hire Casey Hampton to find his replacement. As much as I like mcendon he just isn’t big enough to replace the big snack.

    Start looking for a basketball playing TE that miller can groom over the next few years.

    Draft a new secondary

  3. Andrew C

    You bring up a great point. If you look at the Steelers LB core, they really lack the ability to put pressure on the quarterback and force bad decisions or sacks, and they fail to keep up with athletic TEs. I thought the past two games have been great examples of that.

    It seems that Timmons (who I have loved) and Woodley (who I also have loved) really lack the speed and ability to put pressure on the quarterback and keep up with athletic tight ends. They are too slow and I think you nailed it on the head – they are too big and bulky. Worilds has been playing awesome and it seems that if Timmons or Woodley want to keep up, they’ve gotta drop 15 to 20 pounds. I could be wrong and I am happy to admit it if I am. But it just seems the NFL has sped the game up so much in the past couple of years that guys as big as Timmons and Woodley are getting smoked. Any thoughts?

    1. steelbydesign

      Thanks for the reply Andrew.

      I’m not including Timmons at all in my comments. I actually think LT is one of the most underrated linebackers in the league. Part of the problem with him is that he was slowed down early in his career having to move from inside to outside. Now, with Vince Williams in there, he’s not able to freelance as much to really take advantage of his skills, particularly as an inside pass rusher. Timmons is, in my opinion, one of the few bright spots on the defense.

      For all my criticism of Woodley here, he actually does drop back into coverage relatively well. I know that would surprise some people given his size, myself included…

      Unfortunately I can’t give you specific numbers because I can’t find them at the moment, but someone on twitter a few weeks ago posted something about how Woodley drops back into coverage more than almost any OLB in the league, and does so very well.

      I’d love to pile on here because it supports my point of the article better, but Woodley actually is very good in coverage for a man his size, and at his position. My bigger issue was his conditioning. I don’t see him in the weight room, etc. but some from within the locker room questioned him before. That worries me a lot for a guy that gets paid 60 mil from this team. If he really is out of shape, then that could also be a reason for all the nagging injuries he’s seemed to deal with lately.

  4. Jonathan

    The steelers should flip woodly to Right Outside Linebacke Position.

    1. steelbydesign

      I’d really like to see them try it out for this season at least.

      The Steelers’ reasoning for not doing it was always that Woodley plays the run better, so they wanted him there because more teams run right. I think Worilds could handle himself just fine over there though.

  5. steelerswin

    Worilds is looking better and better, particularly in the place of Woodley. Timmons is solid. Vince Williams and Jarvis Jones fly to the ball but in my opinion their inexperience sometimes gets them caught out of position particularly against the run. I am not that down about temporarily losing McClendon because I thought Al Woods played well in the preseason. Heyward has been coming on strong and strangely enough there seems to be some depth at D-line and Linebacker.
    As far as Woodley goes, I like having him on the team right now for the potential playoff run, but he is no longer performing to a starter level let alone a superstar level. Starting 0-4 maybe had some of us a little over critical as this is a good team. But, I see this as Woodley’s last year as a Steeler for sure. The Steelers drafted Jarvis Jones with the 1st pick and cut Harrison; Jones is starting going forward. Timmons is solid. Vince Williams replacing Larry Foote so far so good. I like the other linebackers for depth behind Timmons and Williams. (Wilson, Sylvester, Carter, Garvin and when healthy Spence). Most of all Worilds deserves to start in place of Woodley based on his recent play. If they cut Woodley and keep Foote at a vet min, they may not even need to draft a linebacker very high next season.
    I agree with all of the above comments about the secondary. My opinion is to stick with Polomolu, replace Clark with Shamarko Thomas and have Will Allen as a backup. My concern is with the cornerbacks. All I hear on TV is how awesome Ike Taylor is. Really? How many times does the guy get burned or called for pass interference? Constantly! A shut down corner would be a great enhancement to this defense.
    Helplessly I feel that the success of this team begins and ends with Ben. Luckily he has thrown few interceptions recently because it would have cost us both games but I saw a couple of potential picks dropped by the opposing defense that would have had us on a completely different topic.
    Our defense is not perfect but is solid. TV announcers say that the defense has been good in recent years. NO it has been the #1 defense in the league practically every year despite the inconsistent offense.
    If the offensive execution holds up and Ben can limit his mistakes we will take the lead against almost any team. The defense is good enough to protect the lead most of the time so long as the offense can keep from turning the ball over. The Steelers are good enough to go deep into the playoffs if they can just pound the ball in the 4th quarter like they used to and run out the clock. That is what needs improvement; offensive physicality.

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