In an article written by Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, his strong opinions about whether the Pittsburgh Steelers should keep linebacker James Harrison and/or LaMarr Woodley and the insinuation that an 'anonymous player' said that Woodley's performance last season was "awful" has raised some eyebrows about whether or not there is dissension among the ranks.
The possibility is that Cook simply didn't name the player because one doesn't exist, or that the anonymous player simply didn't want to be named because he may be as likely to be cut. In his article, Cook wrote a type of memo meant for Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert, "Keep Harrison. But Harrison isn't the key to the Steelers defense. That's the other outside linebacker. Woodley. The team needs him to pick up his game and become a dominant player again opposite Harrison."
Some Steelers veterans were shocked by the revelation that one of their own would speak out so publicly and say, "[Woodley] tells us he works out, but we didn't see it. He wasn't in shape. That has to be a reason why he was always hurt." It is interesting to point out that many Steelers fans feel that the entire team, especially the offensive line, had conditioning issues which led to injuries that often took longer to heal than expected. Safety Ryan Clark said that he was upset about the news. "My biggest problem with [it] is not LaMarr, or is not someone's feelings about LaMarr," said Clark. "My problem is now it's public." He went on to say, "We all have arguments with our brothers, sisters, cousins, but that stays in-house." Clark pointed out that the Steelers are normally a close family, that it was "close-knit". Clark said that the evidence of a fracture is "the most disappointing thing about that coming out." Clark then went on to say that the person who made the comments is probably a member of the Steelers defense (open the link to see the video).
Fellow linebacker, Larry Foote sat down with the Fan Morning Show, yesterday, to address the issues, with the opinion that calling out teammates goes against the code of being a fellow player. Foote's opinion was that he would think a coach might use the quotes to motivate Woodley, but had a hard time thinking that a teammate would take such action.
Cook stated that Colbert has promised changes to the team that could begin this week. Apparently the front office is unhappy with the "significant" spacing between the Steelers and the teams who were in the playoffs. However, ESPN's Jamison Hensley article was written on January 16, 2013. Cook's article was written on Sunday, February 17, 2013. The exact quote by Colbert in both articles was, "If we don't change 8-8, if we don't change the roster that produced 8-8, we'd be silly to expect a better result if we've got the same group of guys. We can't box ourselves in and limit what we potentially could do."
Woodley's production was down during the 2012 season. He was credited with 38 tackles, 4.0 sacks, one forced fumble and one interception. Despite being injured in 2011, Woodley (in just ten games) had 39 tackles, 9.0 sacks, one interception and no forced fumbles. His best seasons were 2008-10. In 2008, Woodley was a sack machine with 11.5 and 60 tackles. In 2009, Woodley had his highest sack totals at 13.5. That same year he had 62 tackles and one forced fumble. In 2010, Woodley was again on pace with 10.0 sacks, 50 tackles, two interceptions (one of which went for 14 yards and a touchdown) and 3 forced fumbles.
It was on August 5, 2011, that Woodley signed a six-year contract extension with the Steelers that would allow him to remain with the team through the 2016 season. A lot of speculation could go into why Woodley appeared to be less effective during the 2012 season. Unfortunately, Woodley has been targeted. According to Pro Football Focus, a website that analyzes every NFL player on every play, analyzed 24 positions (minus fullback), all starting positions plus kickers and kick returner. A total of eight positions on the Steelers' offense declined. Wide receivers Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace were among the top 12 in 2011, but both dipped below the top 40 in 2012. Safety Troy Polamalu was ranked number one in 2011 at his position, yet dropped to thirteen in 2012 because of a torn calf muscle that refused to heal well. Even fellow outside linebacker James Harrison saw his overall impact decline due a knee injury that hampered him the entire 2012 season. Defensive end Brett Keisel and nose tackle Casey Hampton saw their ratings fall to number 21 and number 77 respectfully.
Clark did emphasize that Woodley has been training during the offseason in Arizona. While the 'anonymous player' calls out Woodley, he (if he exists) might want to look around him and take some ownership about his own play and the play of others in the locker room. It is clear that the 2013 season will see a modified Steelers team. Motivation, jealousy or just made up; the public calling-out could easily be the reflection of disappointment and embarrassment over a poor performance in 2012.
Do you think this 'anonymous player' actually exists, or do you think otherwise? Feel free to leave your comments below.
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