The Pittsburgh Steelers re-signed franchise player LaMarr Woodley today to a six year 61.5 million dollar contract with 22.5 million dollar signing bonus, as reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The deal makes Woodley the second highest paid Steelers player in history, second only to starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
The term “highest paid player in Steeler history” is a relative one – in 1993 alone that title passed from Kevin Greene, to Greg Lloyd, then to Rod Woodson.
Still, the deal amounts to a slight shock – not that the Steelers signed Woodley, but that they made such a tremendous investment in him, particularly in terms of guaranteed money.
In just four years, LaMarr Woodley has registered 39 sacks, caught 3 interceptions, and forced 7 fumbles. Together with James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley forms the NFL’s most prolific outside linebacking tandem.
LaMarr Woodley vs. the Steelers Linebacker Legacy
The Pittsburgh Steelers yield nothing to any franchise when it comes to linebacking. Success at linebacker means contributing to that legacy; simply living up to it fails to suffice. (Don't believe me? Check out some reader comments when I mentioned Jason Gildon in the same article as Greg Lloyd.)
How then do Woodley’s first four years stack up against some of his predecessors in the Steelers 3-4 system:
Compared to those who came before him, LaMarr Woodley acquits himself quite well. He leads the group in sacks and forced fumbles, and ties for second most starts with Joey Porter. (James Harrison was not included, as he started very little in his first four years.)
Greg Lloyd trails him in sacks, but Lloyds other numbers reveal how special he is. The number of tackles is also telling, as it shows just how involved a player is in the defense, and here Woodley only trails Joey Porter and Lloyd. (Note on the stats, I’d thought that Lloyd’s high tackle number must be an error on the part of Pro Football reference, but the Steelers 1990 media guide confirms his 1989 total, which was 92 tackles.)
Of course stats can mislead. It isn’t just making plays, but making them in a timely fashion, and in this respect Woodley also excels, registering a sack in each of his post-season appearances, and of course Super Bowl XLIII effectively ended with Woodley’s strip-sack of Kurt Warner.
The Steelers have made a significant investment in LaMarr Woodely and anytime you write a check for 22 million you take a considerable risk.
But the Pittsburgh Steelers clearly believe in LaMarr Woodley, and so should Steelers Nation.
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