After some criticism that his offseason conditioning work wasn’t up to snuff early in the offseason, the Steelers feel linebacker LaMarr Woodley is “where we need to have him” in training camp.
Those complaints came with the implication that Woodley’s injury issues and paltry sack totals last season were because he wasn’t in good enough shape and that a more diligent offseason will eliminate those issues. Woodley thinks there’s another reason in addition to injuries why his pass rushing production dropped, however, and that’s the role he was asked to play in the Steelers defense.
In defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau’s zone-blitz heavy scheme, Woodley is sometimes asked to drop into pass coverage rather than get after the quarterback. Woodley feels he was asked to do that too often in 2012 and hopes that won’t be the case again this season.
“I’d definitely like to get back to doing more rushing than dropping back in coverage because my game is predicated on sacks and this defense is predicated on getting to the quarterback, making quarterbacks make bad decisions and allowing our secondary to make plays,” Woodley said, via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
With James Harrison gone and a battle on to replace him at the other outside linebacker spot, the Steelers will be leaning more heavily on Woodley in 2012 however they choose to use him. Letting him loose to do what he does best would seem to be the best thing for both him and the team, so we’ll see if LeBeau heeds Woodley’s call once the season gets underway.