I hated watching LaMarr Woodley in the Maize and Blue.
But I always enjoyed watching No.56 when he wore the Black and Gold.
A native Ohioan, I was in attendance during the biggest college game of Woodley's career, when No.2 Michigan visited No.1 Ohio State in the "Game of the Century" in 2006. Woodley forced a turnover in that game in OSU's eventual 42-39.
Woodley was an icon at Michigan in those days. My friend and U of M grad sported a "Guns don't kill people.LaMarr Woodley kills people" shirt during each Michigan home game during his time as an undergrad. He was named the Big 10's Defensive Player of the Year in 2006 while also winning the Ted Hendricks Award given annually to the nation's top defensive end.
While he never killed anyone on the football field, Woodley did terrorize opposing quarterbacks during his time with the Steelers. He tallied 11.5 sacks his first year as a starter in 2008 as the Steelers boasted the NFL's No.1 ranked defense.He was arguably Pittsburgh's best defensive player during the team's playoff run that season, recording two sacks in each playoff game. He had two sacks that included the game-clinching sack of Kurt Warner in Pittsburgh's 27-23 win in Super Bowl XLIII.
Woodley was even better in 2009. He totaled 13.5 sacks that included recording at least a sack in each of the Steelers last eight games while earning his first Pro Bowl berth. He had 4.5 sacks in Pittsburgh's last three games that helped the Steelers finish the year 9-7.
His most complete season with the Steelers was in 2010. With Ben Roethlisberger out the first four games, Woodley and the defense elevated their game to an even higher level. He recorded 10 sacks while returning one of his two interceptions for a touchdown. Woodley also forced three fumbles and recovered two more. He recorded a sack in each of Pittsburgh's playoff games including a take down of Aaron Rodgers in Super Bowl XLV.
Woodley tallied nine sacks in 2011 before injuries slowed him down the past two seasons. Now, with the Steelers signing fellow linebacker Jason Worilds to the transitional tag, it looks like Woodley's days as a Steeler are numbered. His final numbers with the Steelers include 57 sacks, five interceptions, nine forced fumbles, 10 recovered fumbles and three total touchdowns to go with nine career postseason sacks.
But Woodley's impact on the Steelers goes beyond statistics. He was truly an impact player that made the Steelers a vastly better team when he was playing his best football. He was an essential piece of a Super Bowl winning team and another team that reached the game's biggest stage. Like Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton and James Farrior before him, Woodley will leave Pittsburgh as a champion who helped bring the Steel Curtain back to prominence.