“So at an early age he hits the street, winds up tied with who he meets and he’s, un-employed! Folks are over joyed…” Van Halen, “The Cradle Will Rock.”
Perhaps the opening quote is somewhat taken out of context and on top of that not quite analogous. But it sums up the sentiment perfectly. With two games remaining in their 2013 season, after Mike Tomlin describing his status as “bleak,” the Pittsburgh Steelers placed outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley on injured reserve, ending his season. To take Woodley’s place, the Steelers signed NFL journeyman Jamaal Westerman.
- The Steelers ladies and gentleman, have a major problem on their hands.
And there’s no easy solution in sight.
When healthy, LaMarr Woodley is one of the best outside linebackers in the NFL. His ability to get to the quarterback in post-season is almost uncanny. He registered two sacks in as a rookie in the ’07 Steelers playoff loss to Jaguars. And he didn’t even start. And for all the link that James Harrison, Ben Roethlisberger, and Santonio Holmes drew for Super Bowl XLIII, it was Woodley who strip sacked Kurt Warner, sealing the game.
- The Steelers quite logically rewarded these efforts with a six year 61.5 million dollar contract.
Yet in the three years since Woodley signed the deal, he’s missed 14 full games and large parts of 3 others. And in 2011 he was flat out ineffective upon returning from the injury.
As has been the pattern, Woodley started strong, recording 5 sacks in the Steelers first 6 games, but then got injured after the Steelers victory over Baltimore. As Allan Robinson of the Tribune Review pointed out, Woodley has only played in 78 of the Steelers 420 snaps of the Steelers second season.
- The logical move, not to mention the cold, calculating move, would be to cut Woodley and divert those “resources” to resigning Jason Worilds.
The move would be logical, except for the fact that the Steelers have renegotiated Woodley’s contract several times. Cutting him next year would leave them with $14.17 million in dead salary cap space in 2014 – eating up a huge chunk of salary cap space – more than 10 percent of it.
The Steelers have shown little sentimentally in parting ways with injury-prone players, having cut Willie Colon just two years into a four year contract.
- However, the move to cut Willie Colon also highlights the risk factor involved.
The Steelers have many difficult choices facing them in the impending off season and LaMarr Woodley just made it more difficult for them.