PITTSBURGH -- Mike Tomlin's comments about LaMarr Woodley's play this season were telling about the outside linebacker's future with the Steelers beyond the final two games of 2013.
Tomlin said Woodley has been “solid” not only this season but throughout his career and that characterization had to raise some eyebrows.
Surely the Steelers expected to get more than just solid play from Woodley when they signed the seventh-year veteran to a six-year, $61.5 million contract in 2011 and made him the highest-paid defensive player in franchise history.
The soft-tissue injuries that have plagued Woodley – and questions they have raised about his weight and conditioning -- and the reality that he is not a No. 1 pass-rusher means something has to give in the offseason. Woodley is going to have to take a significant pay cut or the Steelers will have to seriously consider releasing him.
They already have his replacement on the roster in Jason Worilds.
Worilds played so well at left outside linebacker while Woodley was out with a left calf strain that the fourth-year veteran stayed there instead of moving back to right outside linebacker when Woodley returned to the starting lineup.
Such a proposition -- Woodley moving to right outside linebacker to accommodate Worilds -- would have been unthinkable at the start of the season.
Worilds, who leads the Steelers with seven sacks, will be an unrestricted free agent after the season and Pittsburgh will likely have to choose between him and Woodley.
Given the way Woodley's career has largely stalled since a 2011 hamstring injury sidelined him following a stretch in which he recorded 7.5 sacks in four games, that seems like an easy choice.