LaMarr Woodley is a sore subject for a lot of Pittsburgh Steelers fans these days, and really for most of the past decade, but for a while, he was an essential cog in the team’s machine, who put his best foot forward in the postseason.
The 2007 second-round pick—the second-ever draft pick in the Mike Tomlin era—was rewarded for his great work in 2011 with a six-year, $61.5 million contract. He had been given the franchise tag earlier in the offseason and they made sure to keep him. At the time, it was the biggest contract given to a defensive player in franchise history. In total value, I believe it still is, but Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt passed him in per-year average, though not relative to salary-cap inflation.
After he signed that contract, of course, his play declined, along with his conditioning. He actually appeared to be on an MVP-caliber trajectory in the first half of that season before the soft-tissue injuries began to mount, and he would never be the same again.
But let’s not forget everything he contributed to this team up to that point. Which includes the game-sealing sack/fumble of Kurt Warner in the waning moments of Super Bowl XLIII. It was his second sack of the game, his sixth in the Steelers’ three postseason games that year, and his eighth in four total postseason games up to that point. He showed up when it mattered most. He and James Harrison are tied for the most sacks in the postseason in team history with 11. And Harrison played in 10 more games.
But there was one moment, after that second sack in the Super Bowl, where Woodley wasn’t there for himself, and he recently recalled it during a group discussion between himself, James Farrior, and Willie Colon for the team’s website, reliving that game.
It was Brett Keisel who recovered the fumble that he had forced. He said that Keisel asked him if he wanted the ball after the game was over…and he said no.
“He caught me in the heat of the moment. We won the Super Bowl!”, he said while responding to Colon’s surprise. “If I get to his house, I’m gonna steal that ball”, he joked. “He owes me that ball”.
That game sealed the Steelers’ sixth Super Bowl victory, and second since 2005, making them the first franchise in NFL history to win six Lombardi Trophies. The New England Patriots, only a decade later, finally tied them in Super Bowl wins.
As for Woodley, he would play for three more seasons in Pittsburgh after signing his extension in 2011, much of which was earned through his work in the postseason in his first two years. He would play one year in Oakland and another in Arizona, continuing the deal with soft-tissue injuries along the way. He would miss at least three games every year and a total of 30 from 2011 through 2015, the final year in which he played.