After Slow Start, LaMarr Woodley's Incredible October Provided Much-Needed Spark to Steelers' Defense

Shortly after the controversial 2000 Presidential election, CBS came under some fire for declaring winners in certain states before all the votes were tallied. Saturday Night Live even produced a skit spoofing Dan Rather doing the sports report. It went something like this: "After three quarters, the Los Angeles Lakers lead the Boston Celtics, 79-72. With 75% of the quarters in the books, CBS is declaring the Lakers winners in this game."

In today's day and age, with ESPN, sports talk radio and blogs such as BTSC, 24/7 sports coverage is a fact of life, and we like to declare a lot of stuff before anything is in the books. If a player is doing poorly, he's overrated and overpaid. If he's on a hot streak, people are eager to place the string of success in historical context and assume similarly great production when projecting his future. 

For the first month of the 2011 Steelers season, outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley fell into the "overrated and overpaid" category. He had just signed a six year, $61.5million contract right before the start of the season, but with only 1.5 sacks and very minimal pressure on the quarterback through four games, Woodley looked like he should have been earning a practice squad salary.

And then to make matters worse, after the game against the Texans, it was discovered that former Defensive Player of the Year and Super Bowl XLIII hero James Harrison had suffered a fractured orbital bone and would miss a significant amount of time.

The Steelers pass-rush was barely noticeable with a healthy Harrison in the lineup, how paltry would it look without him?

The cries for Woodley to stand up and produce were now louder than ever. Well, as if flipping a switch, Woodley immediately began to produce and has been one of the most vital contributors over the course of the Steelers' four-game winning-streak, leading a resurgent Steelers pass rush with 7.5 sacks.

Of course, this kind of production (as torrid as it may be) should come as no surprise to anyone, even the fans calling him overrated just a month ago. Coming into the season, Woodley had 39 careers sacks--including an incredible 11 in seven career playoff games--and he's the only player in NFL history to record at least two-sacks in four-straight playoff games. To give you a comparison, James Harrison has 6.5 sacks in the same amount of playoff games in his career.

I'm not trying to create a Woodley vs. Harrison debate. I'm simply demonstrating just how productive Woodley has been.

At Woodley's current four-game sack-pace, he would have 30 over the course of 16-games. Of course, you might think it's a bit silly to suggest that LaMarr could sack the quarterback that many times in a season. True, but it was equally silly to question his value to the team after a slow start.

When I think of the Steelers teams of the 70's, as I've said many times, they seem almost mythical to me. The roster was comprised of many great players (including nine future Hall of Famers), and it's easy to assume that those guys dominated game after game and year after year.

However, without even doing any research, I'm going to go ahead and just safely state that Mean Joe Greene probably had his stretches of ineffective play during his Hall of Fame career. I'm sure Lynn Swann endured an offensive drought or two in his day.

But the coverage and the scrutiny wasn't as great back then, and it's easy to make declarations on their careers today because all the precincts have reported and the final results have been in for many years.

Well, it's a little too early in his career to declare him a future Hall of Famer, but with about 50% of LaMarr Woodley's career in the books, I'm going to go ahead and declare him a damn-good football player and a very valuable member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
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