LaMarr Woodley's stat line looked like one he's put up often in the last season and a half.
He recorded nine plays, but didn't register a stat; as if he didn't play. It's the preseason, certainly no need for the man with the sixth-most sacks in franchise history to push it too hard. His goose egg didn't appear to be due to a lack of effort, just simply a lack of opportunities.
It's weird to have gone even a preseason game without much discussion on Woodley, though. A substandard season will move him past Greg Lloyd into fifth all time in sacks (53.5). A reasonable one will have him pass Kevin Willis (59) and Joey Porter (60), and a great one will challenge former teammate James Harrisonfor second all time (64).
With all the hype bestowed on first round pick Jarvis Jones, perhaps we've forgotten about Woodley. Only a handful of Steelers defensive players in history were as productive as Woodley was his first three seasons in the league. If not for a balky hamstring and a nagging ankle injury, Woodley very well could be at the 64 career sacks mark already.
Due to that early success, health is the only thing standing in Woodley's way of challenging Jason Gildon's franchise record of 77 career sacks (as measured by sacks made while a Steeler).
Health, though, is exactly the rub with Woodley. Gaining a franchise's top spot in any stat not only requires the skill to do but, but the longevity. A lack of health eventually means a lack of contract. Woodley, more than any other year of his career, is playing to earn back the respect he once had.
In fact, his pursuit of that, in a way, mirrors the Steelers' 2013 season. He's off the radar, allowing other players (teams) to wallow in the hype they've been given. He stands in the shadows, and hopefully, is focused on returning to the form he once had.
While fair questions exist over whether Jason Worilds can provide production in his own way to offset the loss of Harrison, the pass rush should be generated by Woodley. It's fair to assume teams are going to challenge Worilds' edge-setting ability against the run, Woodley's pursuit and ability to shut down backside lanes will be critical this year.
Perhaps we won't see the 2011 uninjured version of Woodley this preseason. But he looms in the shadows of Jones's hype machine, perhaps ready to land himself even higher among Steelers legends this season.
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