Friday, October 5, 2012

Fall Is Time For Steelers LaMarr Woodley to Rise


Ahh...Fall is here. Smell the autumn leaves burn, feel its heat as the lazy smoke from it rises up over the West Virginia mountain top...and see LaMarr Woodley finally start to show up in football games.

Woodley, for whatever reason, is a notoriously slow starter to this point in his career. We're seeing it again this season as he only has two sacks, one of which was a miscue where it could easily have been Larry Foote who got to Carson Palmer.

Granted, Woodley has been chipped and double-teamed with the absence of James Harrison on the other side. But he should be doing more to warrant the major money thrown his way by the Rooneys.

Pittsburgh Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler also believes he can do/be more.

“Wood has to decide if he wants to be a great player,” Butler said, via Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review back in August. “When he decides that, he is going to be a bear.”

The numbers seem to prove that to be a fair assessment when you break it down. Look at how each year as a starter has gone.
2008:

First 4 games - 3.5 sacks

Last 12 games - 8 sacks

2009:

First 4 games- 0 sacks

Last 12 games- 13.5 sacks

2010:

First 4 games - 2 sacks

Last 12 games - 8 sacks

2011:

First 4 games - 1.5 sacks

Next 4 games before injury - 7.5 sacks

Not counting this year or his non-starting rookie season (4 sacks), Woodley has seven sacks in the season's first four games during his career as a starter (16 total). That is less than a half of a sack per game. In the final 12 games of the season in his career as a starter, which totals 41 because of games missed due to injury, he has 37 sacks. That is almost a full sack per game. In other words, his production doubles.

Why can't we see that all the time? And that doesn't even include his playoff numbers.

While I personally am a firm believer that the way you end a matter is better than how you start it, Woodley needs to find a way to put up greater numbers before the autumnal equinox.

Like Lance Williams of SteelCurtainRadio.com is fond of saying: "The young guys have to become the guys." With the exception of Lawrence Timmons, with no one is that more true than Woodley.

Especially now that James Harrison is obviously in the twilight of his career, and if this defense stays in a base 3-4 alignment, Woodley has to do more to be a disruptive force.

Harrison's return may help to get a head start, though, on that run that Woodley routinely makes. It isn't the fifth game, but it is the fifth week and the presence alone of the Silverback could bolster Woodley and the defense.

Linebacker Chris Carter, who has inadequately filled in via a dual threat with Jason Worilds, said of the Harrison effect: "When he steps on the field he's the man. We respect that around here. He runs the show when he's there"

As a matter of fact Deebo's return means that Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles will mark the first time since last year's opener that the Steelers will have their projected starting defense on the field at the same time. And the Silverback has guaranteed that he will be present.

Per ESPN's Josina Anderson, @JosinaAnderson on Twitter: "James Harrison in the locker room just now: 'Yeah, definitely, I'll be ready for Sunday.'"

That's good news considering the Steelers need this game and will also want to maintain a trend. They don't often lose to NFC teams, winning 26 out of the last 32 against NFC opponents, including their last seven games at Heinz Field. Another trend the Steelers want to maintain is winning after a bye week. They have only lost once after a bye with Mike Tomlin as head coach.

Having Deebo back on the field, even if it is no more than about 30 snaps, will help bring balance back to the front seven. Because without him the Steelers have started slowly also.

Woodley recognizes this: "The last two games we lost, we didn't make the [opposing offense] one-dimensional."

Well, it's time for him to do his part and rise up now that Fall is here.

~

TIDBITS: ESPN's "Tools For Victory": Wide Receivers - http://tinyurl.com/9mwm7x9

ESPN's Playbook: Eagles vs. Steelers - http://tinyurl.com/9mruchg

Antonio Brown "disses" Brandon Boykin. - http://tinyurl.com/986ecso

Brandon Boykin responds to Antonio Brown's 'candy bar' comment. - http://tinyurl.com/996c94k

David DeCastro (knee) on the mend...and getting his teammates snacks. - http://t.co/wGl5iQp4