LaMarr Woodley mixes in a salad, reportedly down weight

USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers' sagging pass rush will get a boost in 2013 with a healthy, and fit, LaMarr Woodley

Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley was well on his way to Defensive Player of the Year consideration midway through the 2011 season.

He pulled up with a hamstring injury while in pursuit of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady - if he reached him, which he very well could have, it would have been his third sack of the game. Instead, Woodley missed the majority of the next season and a half with that nagging hamstring injury, along with an ankle injury he would suffer later.

He's had four sacks since then.

Fair or otherwise, an unnamed teammate allegedly called Woodley out for not being in shape last season. Woodley said, in interviews after the fact, part of the reason for a lack of conditioning was those injuries. He's moved on, as many teammates have echoed this offseason.

Maybe it's more like he's moving off. Pounds, that is.

Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler mentioned Woodley looks better this year, as the Steelers wrap up minicamp Thursday in Pittsburgh.

Tribune-Review reporter Alan Robinson mentioned Woodley changed his offseason training regimen, and the results are positive.

"Whatever he did, it appears to be right," Butler said. "The biggest thing is we've got to keep him on the field. LaMarr is a prideful man. He understands he has to play at a certain level to fulfill his contract, you might say. He's working on it."

Woodley can fairly be considered the key defensive player for the Steelers this season. With it being a near certainty the player opposite him will have considerably less experience (veteran Jason Worilds will likely get the start, with 10 starts in his career to date), Woodley, for the first time in his career, will be the primary edge rushing threat.

The Steelers let James Harrison walk in free agency, and he has since signed with the Cincinnati Bengals. Harrison has missed time over the last two years as well, and the Steelers' pass rush, once something to be feared, has fallen into mediocrity. Their 72 sacks over the last two years 16th in the NFL.

The Steelers added Jones, expect production from Worilds and, based on a few wrinkles they added to inside blitzes last season, could take a step forward in terms of getting to the quarterback this year.

Especially if a healthy Woodley is on the field for 16 games.


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