In 2012 the Steelers yielded the lowest amount of total yardage and passing yardage in the NFL, continuing their run of elite defensive rankings since Dick LeBeau has been the defensive coordinator. However just ranking high in certain statistics isn't enough for this defense, says LaMarr Woodley.
Woodley has become one of the stalwart defenders on the Steelers team, and began his career in Pittsburgh with the start of the Mike Tomlin era. He's seen what it takes to win a Super Bowl, what it feels like losing a Super Bowl, what it's like missing the playoffs, and what is needed for a rebound season after missing the playoffs.
That's why it's important to hear him saying they need to play better on defense, despite the rankings last year. He knows more turnovers will be needed; he also knows that Pittsburgh must defend the run better in 2013, despite there being only one defense who allowed less rushing yards in 2012.
It shows that he's ready to be a leader, at least as far as the talking goes. In years prior, Woodley has made statements in the press that guaranteed wins or caused headlines because he would call out a player or two. His demeanor leading up this season shows a more focused and poised player waiting to prove himself on the field.
The defense still has several leaders on the field, even without Woodley. But his ability to rush the passer when he's at his best changes the dynamics of how the defense can operate. He knows it's not about what Chris Johnson does or doesn't do, it's about how the Steelers execute on their own assignments that will determine success or failure.
"We have to go out there and perform," said Woodley. "We have to go out there and do what we didn't do last year - that's stopping the run, getting turnovers and putting our offense in good field position."
That's the standard.