Starting his first game in Pittsburgh could be a source of intimidation for a 23-year-old playing arguably the most defining position in the franchise. There's little doubt second-year man LaMarr Woodley is up to the task.
I watched Michigan take back college football's oldest rivalry trophy, the Little Brown Jug, against the overmatched Minnesota Golden Gophers in September of 2006. For some reason, the Gophers had played Michigan tough the past few seasons, and actually beat them the previous season - the first time since 1986.
I'm used to seeing the Wolverines beat Minnesota one way or the other. What I took away from that game was a short but powerful defensive end named LaMarr Woodley who I knew would be in a Steelers uniform.
I proclaimed him the Steelers future first-round draft pick to my buddy Chuck, who calmly questioned if he was a first-rounder.
Going into the draft, it was obvious Woodley wouldn't be a first-rounder, but the Steelers miss so rarely on second-round picks, it almost seemed more fitting he'd be taken then, considering this tweener (too short for end, thought to be too heavy for outside 'backer) didn't fit the prototype of a guy with a $20 million guaranteed deal.
I just smiled when I heard his name read off for the Steelers pick, and anticipated writing what I'm writing now.
Now, we've got a guy who fits this team's mindset perfectly, and he's got a second-round-sized chip on his shoulder. He's gonna bring the noise all season long.
I dug around for hours over the course of last season and this season to find a site that runs a play counter for each player in the league. A tall task, no doubt, but I wanted to prove my theory that Woodley had a higher sacks-per-play ratio than any other player in the league. This was highlighted by the playoff loss to Jacksonville last season, when Woodley was in the game for less time than just about any other non-special-teams-only player, and registered two sacks.
He looked as effortless against the exhaulted Jaguars offensive line as he did in destroying the hapless Gophers that day in September.
As much as I like Clark Haggans, and am happy for the fact another team is going to pay him a nice final contract, Woodley went from The Future to The Now, and that begins today at Heinz Field.
My match-ups column on Steel City Insider highlights Silverback against rookie Duane Brown because it's the most newsworthy battle. But I'm pumped to see Woodley against Houston's new $30 Million Man, Eric Winston.
Woodley's got the size to hold his own against the run from that side as long as he stays on his feet (assuming the ethical practice of cut-blocking is utilized by "genius" offensive coordinator Alex Gibbs), and has that explosive strength to blow up the undersized running back tandem of Steve Slaton and Ahman Green.
With Silverback rightly getting tons of pub in preparing to make Texans' message boards go boom with "why did we draft him?" calls about Brown, Woodley's quietly prepared to handle his first start, and getting penetration, owning the line and not getting cut by the pussy Texans' blockers will be paramount in this game.
Labels: Steelers Key Player