2013 will be a pivotal year for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who fell apart last season and finished third in the AFC North with an 8-8 record. They watched a host of former Pro Bowlers depart this offseason, including wide receiver Mike Wallace, outside linebacker James Harrison, nose tackle Casey Hampton, running back Rashard Mendenhall and offensive tackle Max Starks.
If the Steelers are going to rebound from a disastrous 2012 campaign and make it back to the postseason, they’ll need outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley to regain his Pro Bowl form in 2013. Woodley has missed nine games over the past two seasons due to hamstring and ankle injuries. It doesn’t help that he has four sacks in the past 13 games that he’s played.
Making matters worse last year was an unnamed Steelers teammate calling out Woodley, saying the reason he was always hurt was because he was out of shape. So it comes as no surprise there will be pressure on Woodely to perform well in 2013, as the Steelers won’t keep paying like he’s a Pro Bowl LB for much longer if he doesn’t, and linebackers coach Keith Butler echoed those sentiments:
We talked about it. You think about the logistics of the NFL: A team is paying you $7-8 million dollars and they aren’t paying you to watch from the sidelines. I am a coach and they don’t pay me $7-8 million to stand on the sidelines and that’s what he’s been doing. If you are not on the field, you can’t earn your money. They might pay for one year, but they aren’t going to pay for the next year. That is the matter-of-fact of the NFL.
From 2008-2010, Woodley accounted for 34 sacks as he became one of the premier pass-rushers in the NFL, and if he gets back to that level of production in 2013, expect to once again see the Steelers defense among the NFL’s best.