Rod Woodson is a legend. Sure, he might be a legend for several teams, but when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers, very few did it better than Woodson. This simple fact gives him more than enough reason to criticize the team, and he did just that during a segment on the NFL Network.
When asked about the drama surrounding Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, the Pro Football Hall of Famer didn’t want to talk about the offense. After all, the Steelers’ offense is riddled with playmakers. Instead, he spoke about the defense, and its lack of playmakers.
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“I can’t remember the last time that they had a playmaker on the defensive side,” Woodson said on the NFL Network. “(Ryan) Shazier was going to be that guy, and unfortunately, he got hurt, but I’m just trying to figure out who’s it going to be. The last time I’ve seen a playmaker on that side, Troy Polamalu was suited up for the Pittsburgh Steelers.”
Steelers fans don’t like to hear their team criticized publicly, especially by former players, but Woodson’s analysis of the defense is spot-on.
Shazier was supposed to be that playmaker, but the great Steelers defenses of old had more than only one playmaker. If you go back to Woodson’s days in Pittsburgh, Greg Lloyd, Kevin Greene, Chad Brown and even Carnell Lake all helped make the defense complete, and dangerous.
The teams in the early 2000s also were riddled with playmakers. Joey Porter, James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, James Farrior, Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark and even Brett Keisel were all considered players who could make a difference on any given play.
Considering Shazier is out for the 2018 season, who would be considered the current defense’s playmakers?
Cameron Heyward would be my first guess, but after that nothing is certain. T.J. Watt could develop into a playmaker, Bud Dupree might live up to his first round billing, Stephon Tuitt — when healthy — could fall into this category, but fans mostly are left with question marks.
If you’re looking to point the finger of blame at someone, you can point it directly at the scouting department, coaches and general manager. For as great as they are at drafting offensive talent, they certainly have struggled recently on the defensive side of the ball. But this might all change if the aforementioned players do pan out as playmakers, and not just the kind of players you’ll scarcely remember several years from now.
Will it happen? Will the Steelers be able to show Rod Woodson they’ve got more playmakers than only the injured Shazier? Only time will tell, but answering this question could be the difference between a Super Bowl run, and another disappointing end to a promising season.