During the offseason, I thought for sure that the Pittsburgh Steelers would re-sign defensive lineman Al Woods. It would have made a lot of sense being as the team was destined to let defensive end Ziggy Hood walk. In addition, there was no guarantee that Brett Keisel would be returning along with no guarantee that they would get a player like Stephon Tuitt in the draft.
Woods of course wound up signing with the Tennessee Titans early on in the free agency signing period and while we don’t know for certain, rumors at that time suggested that the former fourth-round draft pick of the New Orleans Saints never gave the Steelers a chance to match the offer.
A few days after Woods signed with the Titans the Steelers signed former San Diego Chargers defensive lineman Cam Thomas right after both he and former Buffalo Bills defensive lineman Alex Carrington were brought in for free agent visits.
The timing of both the Woods and Thomas signings can easily lead one to believe that the Steelers thought for sure that they were going to be able to re-sign Woods, who they had already invested a lot of time into developing.
Amazingly, Woods and Thomas both reportedly signed two-year deals worth $4 million. The Titans, however, reportedly gave Woods annual incentives that he could earn in the amount of $500,000. If indeed those meager incentives are the reason why Woods decided to leave Pittsburgh, then shame on Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert for letting that happen.
To say that Thomas has been a huge disappointment this season with the Steelers would be an understatement. However, if you looked as him film from the last two seasons that he played with the Chargers, it’s no surprise that he hasn’t played well.
The Steelers have now pretty much admitted that signing Thomas was a mistake as rookie Daniel McCullers is now scheduled to start Monday night at nose tackle against the Titans with starter Steve McLendon expected to miss the game with a shoulder injury. The Steelers loath starting rookies on defense, so that tells you all you need to know about how they currently feel about Thomas.
As for Woods, while he’s only played 165 snaps so far this season for the Titans, he’s definitely played the run better than Thomas has with the Steelers. 11 of Woods’ 17 total tackles this year have been registered as stops by Pro Football Focus. Thomas, on the other hand, has registered 18 total tackles with nine stops so far this season and he’s played 175 more snaps than Woods has.
Woods was never going to be a longtime starter in Pittsburgh, but you have to wonder what kind of difference he would have made this year early on in the season and especially against the run at both nose tackle and defensive end. There’s no way he would’ve played as bad as Thomas has at times this season.
With six games remaining in the 2014 season, Thomas already has one foot out of Pittsburgh and the other foot will join it after the season is over. Woods, however, has both of his feet firmly planted in Nashville with the Titans. It’s too bad that the Steelers couldn’t find a way back in March to keep them both planted in Pittsburgh. They sure could’ve used him.