Linebackers rotating to combat no-huddle offenses by creating unpredictability

Justin Edmonds - Getty Images

When the Steelers rotate their outside linebackers, they will create different looks for opposing offenses, and with the advantage of putting fresh players on the field, the Steelers become more rested and less predictable.

Meet LaMarr Woodley.

He's 6-foot-2 and is listed at 265 pounds. Not to be rude, but I think he may be a pound or two north of that.

Woodley is 27 years old, and is among the better pass rushers in the game. There really isn't a whole lot suggesting he isn't able to keep himself relatively fresh over the course of a 60 minute football game - as strenuous as it is.

So why is he going to be subbed out on an as-of-now unknown rotational system?

There are a few theories behind this.

One is Woodley having contracted the same aversion to conditioning and slumping work habits that derailed the future (ahem) Hall of Fame career of one quarterback JaMarcus Russell.

That doesn't seem likely, considering Woodley's past has shown him to be nothing but a hard worker.

Another is Woodley, like other seasons in his past, is playing his way into shape. This is a little more believable considering his production to this point in the season hasn't been terrible - two sacks with a defensive line that hasn't exactly been playing up to standard either isn't cause for major concern. And if it is, the fact they're going to rotate him with a player, Jason Worilds, who has zero sacks is a bigger problem.

Most likely theory, Woodley is being subbed out to save him for the inevitable no-huddle offense the Eagles will throw at the Steelers. This strategy is being incorporated ahead of time, so if the Eagles do choose to go into no-huddle, they'll now have to plan out which Steelers package to use it against.

And with the return of James Harrison on the other side of the ball, how much do you want to bet the Eagles won't want to run it with both of them on the field?

Perhaps the idea is to pace both Harrison and Woodley in the first three quarters and have them on the field for nearly all of the fourth quarter. Seems by the way Eagles QB Michael Vick has performed late in games (he has three comeback wins this season already), keeping the pass rush rested for the stretch run (no pun intended) seems like a pretty shrewd plan.

Plus, the level of unpredictability of when Harrison and Woodley will sub out creates a more attacking mentality on defense. An offense looks to incorporate a no-huddle drive when it feels it has a personnel advantage. Now, they'll have to see whether Harrison and/or Woodley is on the field, and with no game film to see how the Steelers choose to rotate them, their guess is as good as ours.

Let's keep in mind too, no one's talking about rotating Troy Polamalu, an x-factor playmaker who can play against any offense in a variety of roles.

The Steelers defense gains both versatility and stamina with this rotational plan, which are two things that can make a no-huddle a less-than-desirable option for offenses.


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