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Woodley hurrying the Steelers' defense

It's not all about the sacks for Steelers' OLB LaMarr Woodley. While his QB hurry numbers aren't leading the league, he's doing enough on the field to show he's healthy and capable of making plays again.

Larry French

Don't look now but Steelers OLB LaMarr Woodley is making you eat your words.

Those words, about what Woodley himself is eating, did serve a purpose, as it turns out. They were fuel for him in his efforts to get healthy and stay on the field. Woodley is injury-free, and playing at a good level through the team's first five games.

The only issue is his play hasn't exactly inspired the rest of his front seven teammates.

Woodley's four sacks so far this season give him 56 for his career, enough to put him sixth in franchise history, having passed Greg Lloyd's mark. He's three away from Keith Willis's 59 and four from Joey Porter's 60. More importantly in the context of this season, though, Woodley is getting pressure - something the Steelers have struggled with over the last two seasons.

The sacks will come. There's obviously a correlation between the amount of times a player can get to the quarterback (recorded as a "hurry") and the amount of sacks he'll get. Those hurries can lead to good things.

Steelers rookie linebacker Jarvis Jones, playing with a concussion, had one hurry all game against the Jets. That hurry led to the team's second interception of the game - and the season. Any kind of pressure created is a good thing. Still, Woodley's 11 hurries aren't suggestive he is destroying his competition. Pro Football Focus lists Kansas City's Tamba Hali as the top of all 3-4 outside linebackers with 40, which seems to toe on the line of cartoonishly high. Baltimore's pair of outside linebackers, Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, have 13 hurries each, but they've combined for 12 sacks. The Steelers have seven sacks as a team - four of them coming from Woodley.

He spoke with Tribune-Review reporter Ralph N. Paulk in Friday's edition about his production.

"Sometimes, people don't understand why my sack numbers are down," Woodley told Paulk. "They only look at the sacks, but don't pay attention to the hurries."

The fact Woodley is consistently on the field, though, is the key here. The plays will come, as they have many times for him against the Ravens in his career. In nine games against Baltimore, he has 7.5 sacks and 32 tackles. He's even scored a touchdown.

The Steelers will need him to raise his game against their AFC North foe. If the Steelers wish to keep the glimmer of postseason hope alive for this year, it's a must-win game.

Having Woodley available, instead of in sweats on the sideline, for a big game is a big step forward for the Steelers.

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