Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Al Woods is an example of a draft pick that may have been give up on too quick by the team that drafted him. While it was only one preseason game, the LSU product was the defensive star Saturday night in the preseason opener against the New York Giants.
Woods was originally drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the fourth-round of the 2010 NFL Draft, but released by head coach Sean Payton right before the start of the regular season.
“You\’re hopeful for all your draft picks,” Payton said in September of 2010. “I think the mistake is maybe hanging on to them or not recognizing some of the deficiencies and all of a sudden you go two or three years into that. He did some things on a positive note that were encouraging and yet ultimately we didn\’t feel confident enough with where he was at right now and we went a different direction. We\’ve tried to hold true and really evaluate the players once they get here and he was an example of that.”
After he had cleared waivers, the Steelers signed Woods to their practice squad and defensive line coach John Mitchell started the process of turning the defensive tackle into a 3-4 defensive end. Unfortunately, that process was interrupted in November of that season when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Woods off the Steelers practice squad.
Woods stayed with the Buccaneers until just before the start of the 2011 season when he was again waived. This time, however, he was claimed off waivers by the Seattle Seahawks only to be waived by them in November of 2011. The Steelers saw the perfect opportunity to get Woods back in the fold at that point and claimed him waivers. At the time, they had already lost defensive end Aaron Smith and nose tackle Chris Hoke for the season, but it still didn\’t result in any playing time for Woods, as he was inactive for the remainder of the season.
Last year was the first time that Woods was in training camp with the Steelers and he beat out Corbin Bryant for the final defensive end spot on the roster. Winning that roster spot, however, didn\’t result in much playing time for Woods as he only played 30 snaps over the course of ten different games.
Saturday night against the Giants, all of the work that Mitchell has put in with Woods appears to be taking hold as the 300-pound-plus defensive lineman led the team with nine total tackles. Woods also used his hands and arms very well during the game in effort to keep himself free in order to make plays or clog up running lanes.
This upcoming season, the Steelers will likely look to Woods to help spell Ziggy Hood from time to time at left defensive end. In addition, Woods received work as the second-team nose tackle over the course of the summer, so it would not be surprising to see him used in some emergency situations there.
I bet the Steelers are glad the Saints decided to go in a different direction with Woods as his arrow is currently pointing in the direction of up for them. Hopefully it stays that way.