With Steelers linebacker James Harrison sliding into the twilight of his career, the next great outside linebacker in the Steelers’ 3-4 defense could be LaMarr Woodley.
But linebackers coach Keith Butler thinks that Woodley has to want it. So far, he apparently hasn’t.
“Wood has to decide if he wants to be a great player,” Butler recently said, via Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “When he decides that, he is going to be a bear.”
Last year, Woodley got off to a slow start, with only 1.5 sacks in four games. Butler thinks that happened because Woodley showed up too for camp too heavy.
“He just wasn’t in shape,” Butler said. “He’ll tell you that. If he don’t tell you that, I’ll tell you that, I don’t care. He has to get his big butt in shape, I tell him that all of the time: Don’t come to camp weighing 290.”
This year, Woodley was closer to his listed weight of 265. And Butler is happy. But he still wants Woodley to not be content.
“A lot of guys come in the league and have a lot of natural ability,” Butler said. “At some point in time they realize they have to work in order to stand out in this league. If you don’t work, you are just going to be another guy — a good player, but not a great player.”
If Woodley can finally become that great player, the Steelers can continue to have a great defense, even after current anchors like Harrison and Troy Polamalu and Brett Keisel are gone.