Contemplating New Approach

Keith Butler and Larry Foote talked about it last week. Now LaMarr Woodley says he's amenable to a new approach with the Steelers' OLBs, writes Mike Prisuta.

The Steelers' second effort of the preseason, much like the first, was devoted in no small part to finding out how three might go into two at outside linebacker.

We saw against the Washington Redskins what we had seen against the New York Football Giants, a lot of Jarvis Jones at right outside linebacker with Jason Worilds at left outside linebacker instead of LaMarr Woodley.

The suspicion after the preseason opener was that the Steelers were preparing Worilds for both spots, in the event more misfortune would befall Woodley this season. But Woodley suggested after Monday night's 24-13 loss that all three may play a regular role this season even if all three stay healthy.

"That would be nice, to have a rotation like that throughout the year," Woodley maintained, "having different outside linebackers coming in, taking a breather, working against the offensive line."

Woodley, a decorated veteran and a player who admittedly gets paid to rush the passer and sack the quarterback, insisted he'd welcome such an arrangement.

Even in a season during which the glare of the spotlight will be on Woodley to bounce back and produce.

"Whatever's best for the team," he said. "If it's going to be best for all three of us; whatever works.

"The coaches make the call, I don't complain about it. I go out there and play football."

As of now it's just a theory, one defensive end Brett Keisel suggested might be tougher to put into practice once they start counting sacks.

"It was nice of Woodley to say but in the back of my mind I'm thinking, ‘He's not going to want to come out,'" Keisel offered.

Still, "it's possible," Keisel continued. "The healthier we are and the fresher we are going down the stretch makes a difference. And if those guys can come in and play winning football we'll take that.

"We want the same thing as a defensive line, guys to come in and us as a whole not missing a beat."

The preseason play of Worilds, who has apparently answered the challenge presented by the drafting of Jones on the first round, and the play of Jones, who forced a fumble against the Redskins, suggests the Steelers are at least three deep at the position.

Keisel, likewise, likes what he's seeing from a couple of the non-starters up front.

"Cam's had a great camp," Keisel assessed of defensive end Cam Heyward. "Al (Woods) is coming along. (Rookies) Brian (Arnfelt) and Nick (Williams) made some pretty good plays (against the Redskins).

"They need to continue to work, continue to master the little things that make you a good defensive player."

And the coaches would need to pull the trigger on what would be a significant departure of policy.

The Steelers have traditionally been much more of a wait-your-turn team than they have been a rotation team on defense.

But considering Woodley's recent injury history, Keisel's age (34) and the problems the defense had generating sacks even in a 2012 season that saw the Steelers lead the NFL in total defense (again), the time might be right for such a significant philosophical shift.

This much we know: Just by considering it and investigating it and experimenting with it the coaches are proving that they are indeed serious about getting more sacks and, more importantly from defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's perspective, generating more pressure in an effort to force more turnovers.

Whether Woodley was sincere or not in his acceptance of what might become a lesser role remains to be seen. Keisel, for one, seemingly has his doubts. But Da Beard admits it could use a blow from time to time.

"For sure," Keisel confirmed. "Sometimes I'm sucking wind. I need to come out."


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