Woodley move contingent on his health

December, 4, 2013
12/04/13
12:18
PM ET
PITTSBURGH -- LaMarr Woodley has said he would be willing to move from left to right outside linebacker.

Jason Worilds is clearly better at left outside linebacker than right outside linebacker.

So what is preventing the Steelers from flipping their starting outside linebackers? It is the same reason Woodley may be deemed expendable after the season.

His health.

Woodley
Woodley
Woodley will practice on a limited basis this week, at least during the early part of it, and he is anything but a sure thing to return to action after missing the past three games because of a strained calf.

The limited practice time makes a move to right outside linebacker unlikely for the highest-paid defensive player in Steelers history, at least until Woodley is healthy enough to get enough practice time at the position.

Coach Mike Tomlin, for his part, seems more open than ever to such a move given Worilds’ emergence since he has played almost exclusively at left outside linebacker.

“It’s definitely something to consider,” Tomlin said. “Obviously Woodley’s health and availability is the chief element of that decision-making process. I acknowledge that the work we’ve gotten from Worilds, particularly on the left side of our defense, has been impressive and it’s not gone unnoticed by me.”

It probably hasn’t gone unnoticed by Woodley either.

Worilds has surpassed him Woodley for the team lead in sacks (six to five), and he may now be the Steelers’ best pass-rusher, even when the latter is healthy.

Woodley simply hasn’t been the same player since injuring his hamstring more than two years ago in a 25-17 win over the Patriots.

The seventh-year veteran has been plagued by various nagging injuries, as well as a high-ankle sprain, and the accumulation of those ailments appears to have robbed Woodley of his burst.

The Steelers need to get their two best pass-rushers back on the field together and put them in the positions that will best maximize their ability to put pressure on the quarterback.

But Woodley has to get healthy before the Steelers can consider moving him to right outside linebacker.

“It’s always frustrating sitting out,” Woodley said. “You want to go out there and help your team win football games. Anybody that’s a competitor doesn’t like to sit out but sometimes thing happen and you’ve just got to make sure you’re getting right so you can go out there and help your team win.”

Scott Brown

ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter

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