By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — Few could argue LaMarr Woodley’s status on the Pittsburgh Steelers or the fourth-year outside linebacker’s place among NFL pass-rushers.
Woodley has ranked among the league-leaders in sacks the past three seasons and has 39 since the Steelers drafted him in the second round in 2007. But in the playoffs, Woodley’s pass-rushing performances are unparalleled.
With 10 sacks in six post-season games, Woodley became the first NFL player to accomplish that feat. He’s the 10th player to have double-digit sacks in the playoffs, but the fastest to 10 with just six games. Still, Woodley made just $550,000 this past season, a miniscule amount for a player with his stats.
And while several other Steelers got contract extensions, Woodley’s was untouched. And with labor unrest looming, who knows what will happen? Through it all, Woodley has remained an utmost professional.
“I really don’t like to do that,” Woodley said. “My thing is to go out there and get the stuff done on the field. Sitting back and talking about a contract, something I really can’t control, that doesn’t work for me. I can control the numbers I put up on the field, and when it’s time to go back and look at your contract situation you can look at those numbers.
“So, if I went into this season worrying about my contract, I wouldn’t have focused on winning the Super Bowl. That’s what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to be selfish. I wanted to focus on my team, because they count on me going out there and playing at my best. So, I don’t want to let them down. It’s going to have to be dealt with one way or another. We’ll deal with it then.”
Woodley mentioned his contract status before training camp, and that was it. But when pressed about it Thursday after practice, he expanded his response.
“Sure, you’d like to get it done, (but) it’s not in my control to do that,” Woodley said. “And I would love to stay in Pittsburgh. When I get somewhere, I’d love to stay there. The Steelers have been my team since I’ve been in junior high.
“So, to have an opportunity to play for my team and win a Super Bowl with your team and play in another one, I’m loving it. I’m also five hours away from home, so this is the best place for me.”
Woodley actually followed the Dallas Cowboys during his youth, but changed allegiances to the Steelers when he entered junior high school.
“I loved Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin when I was a kid,” Woodley said. “Then, in junior high, I started to like the Steelers. I really loved Jerome Bettis, because I was a fullback and wore No. 36 and called myself the Bus. So, ever since then, I was a Steelers fan.”
LeBeau Staying Put
There have been rumors floating around that Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau would retire if his team wins the Super Bowl this year. LeBeau, who has not spoken publicly to the local media this week, told ESPN that those rumors were false.
Woodley said he and his defensive teammates didn’t hear anything about it.
“He was inducted into the Hall of Fame this past year, and hopefully we’ll win another Super Bowl for him,” Woodley said. “He deserves it, but I want him to come back again next year. That way, we can go out and win another one.
“But I haven’t heard anything about him retiring, really, and even if we win it he’ll be sitting at home wondering if we could win it again next year. So, I say let him coach as long as he wants to like Coach Paterno at Penn State.”
The Steelers injury report did not change Thursday, so the status of defensive end Aaron Smith is still up in the air.
“We didn’t come to any decision yet, so I’m just going to take things day to day like I’ve done when I got injured three months ago,” Smith said. “I usually feel pretty good on most days, but I guess I’m just not ready for a full practice.”
Smith was limited to individual drills again Thursday, but rookie outside linebacker Jason Worilds has been a full participant for two weeks now after suffering a bad bone bruise on his leg and missing some time.
“It was very deep and painful, and it really slowed me down in recent weeks,” Worilds said. “I’m doing better, so I’m trying to take it day by day. I was active for the last game, so I’m pretty confident that I’ll be able to play with an extra week between our last game and the Super Bowl.
“I’m the hunter on our coverage teams. That’s position L-5, so it’s my job to find the ball and try to dislodge it from the player who’s carrying it. I enjoy doing that, and I hope to make an impact doing it in the Super Bowl. That would be a big thrill for me, do I hope to feel a lot better by then.”
Just like it was Wednesday, safety Will Allen (knee), cornerback Bryant McFadden (abdomen), safety Troy Polamalu (Achilles), center Maurkice Pouncey (ankle), wideout Emmanuel Sanders (foot) and offensive tackle Jonathan Scott (ribs) did not practice.
For Green Bay, it was the status quo as well with linebacker Desmond Bishop (ankle), offensive tackle Chad Clifton (neck), linebacker A.J. Hawk (knee), wideout Greg Jennings (knee) and center Jason Spitz (calf) limited in practice Thursday. Linebacker Erik Walden (ankle) and linebacker Frank Zomba (knee) did not practice.