Ever since Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley came up lame chasing Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in Week 8 of the 2011 season, things have gone less-than-stellar for the seventh-year veteran. He tweaked his hamstring, and the injury lingered for the rest of the season.
Before that play, occurring in the third quarter of an eventual 25-17 Steelers win, Woodley already had two sacks, and looked like he could have gotten his third. That would have given him 10 on the season, and kept him competitive in what seemed to be a mounting run at the league's sack title.
Instead, he has four sacks in his last 15 games.
According to Post-Gazette reporter Dan Gigler, Woodley spoke Saturday at a luncheon for the P.A.C.T. Initiative, a non-profit focused on reducing crime and violence in Pittsburgh, and the McKeesport chapter of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren.
"My thing was during the season when I hurt my ankle, I said that I wanted to come back stronger next year," Woodley told Gigler. "Some injuries you can't predict or avoid, but, during the season, I said this offseason I'd be determined to get after it."
Woodley said he's been training since mid-February in hopes of being prepared for the 2013 season - one in which the Steelers look to rebound from back-to-back seasons of mediocre sack numbers (35 and 37, respectively).
The Steelers drafted OLB Jarvis Jones to help in that effort, and he looks to compete with incumbent Jason Worilds - who led the Steelers with five sacks in 2012 - for a starting position.
A healthy Woodley over a full season has produced big results in the past, and that kind of production could have a trickle-down effect on the rest of the front seven.
That front seven will be drastically different, though, with the likely subtraction of long-time starting nose tackle Casey Hampton and the man Worilds and Jones compete to replace, James Harrison. Woodley will have to take on that burden of responsibility if the Steelers are to become a playmaking defense again.