The Optimist’s Take – Bringing Back The Wood

While the Pittsburgh Steelers may have gained some tangible evidence of improvement, improving their win total by three games and hosting a playoff game as a division champion for the first time in four seasons, there is no doubt that the team is far from a finished product.

No team, of course, is a finished product in the offseason. Every team loses players to free agency and retirement, and replaces them through the same free agency process, as well as the draft.

With all of the change that occurs during the offseason, it’s often difficult to predict how a particular team might fare. They may wind up holding the Lombardi trophy or the first overall draft pick when all is said and done.

In order to gain a better feel for not only the issues facing the team this year, but how those issues might play out, it’s useful to take the devil’s advocate approach. This is the optimistic side of the coin.

Question: Should the Steelers kick the tires on LaMarr Woodley?

Though it came as little surprise, the news got out yesterday that the Raiders intend to release former long-time Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who signed a two-year contract last year that was worth up to $12 million.

Unsurprisingly, he was unable to finish the season due to injury, and once again wound up on injured reserve. Woodley played in six games for the Raiders, starting five of them at defensive end, and only registered five tackles in the process. He logged close to 300 snaps in that span, but did not seem to take to the system shift well.

The Steelers, meanwhile, just so happen to be in dire straits at the outside linebacker position. It’s a situation that has already been discussed sufficiently here such that it doesn’t need to be recapped.

The team has already shown a willingness to bring back players that have left or that they have released, so it wouldn’t be completely surprising if a reunion is in the works. After all, among players currently not under contract (for another week or so), there’s not another player in this league who knows better than Woodley how to run the Steelers’ system.

The only way this will work, however, is if he is willing to take on the task of proving himself all over again by accepting a veteran-minimum contract. He has been riddled with injury concerns over the past half-decade, so no smart team should be throwing money at him right now.

If he comes back in a reduced role as a rotational player at outside linebacker—particularly provided that the team fails to re-sign Jason Worilds—it could help the team get by in its first season under Keith Butler.

Playing in a lesser role will save wear on his body and hopefully help him avoid injury. And, quite frankly, he has to be humbled by now to the point where he knows it’s his responsibility, and his alone, to take care of his body and make sure he can stay on the field. As long as the risk is minimal, I don’t see this as a foolish move.

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