Woods Getting To Know Quarterbacks

Emerging Steelers defensive lineman looking to re-introduce himself to former teammate turned Green Bay Packers QB.

PITTSBURGH -- Al Woods knows Matt Flynn. He was Woods' quarterback at LSU when the Tigers won the National Championship in 2007.

Woods was a sophomore defensive tackle and Flynn was the senior quarterback, having replaced JaMarcus Russell.

That season Flynn led LSU to comeback wins over Auburn and Alabama and then threw four touchdown passes to beat Ohio State in the BCS title game. Flynn was the game's Offensive MVP, but it only got him drafted in the seventh round by the Green Bay Packers.

Flynn has taken a circuitous route back to Green Bay, and he'll likely be the starting QB in place of the injured Aaron Rodgers on Sunday when Woods and the Steelers come to town.

Woods said he'll stop by and say hello to Flynn after the game. But what about during the game?

"If I can get a good hit on him and say, 'Remember me?'" Woods said with a laugh.

But then he came clean.

"Nah. When I'm on the field I don't say anything to nobody. I'm just so focused on trying to do what needs to be done and what's asked of me. All that fun stuff, I kind of lock it out and just focus in on what I need to do."

That focus has made Woods almost as big a story in Pittsburgh as Flynn is this week in Green Bay.

Of course, Flynn's a quarterback, but Woods is a reserve defensive tackle who replaced Steve McLendon at nose tackle and played so well that Mike Tomlin actually said he was excited about Woods.

"Really?" Woods asked, before receiving a nod in the affirmative.

"Cool," he said.

Tomlin's quote, when asked about Woods at his weekly press conference Tuesday, actually went like this:

"I thought he was above the line. I think he's a guy, like many guys in his circumstance, that's getting an opportunity due to the misfortunes of someone else. He's getting better with it. I thought that this performance was better than the last. I thought his pad level was good. I thought he came off blocks and was productive in some areas. I'm excited about him."

While that was "cool" news to Woods, it was a "cool" indication of talent for Tomlin and the Steelers because they're going to need defensive linemen with the contracts of Brett Keisel and Ziggy Hood also set to expire.

Maybe that's why Tomlin was excited by the performance of a fourth-year player who appears to be on the verge of becoming a valuable contributor.

Last Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, Woods played the part. An end in the NFL since playing nose tackle in LSU's 4-3 alignment, Woods made his second career start (both in the last three games) and made a career-high five tackles. His favorite was a third-and-1 tackle in which he split a double team to bring down BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

The play was not to be confused with an earlier third-and-1 in which Woods stood up the guard and center in holding the point of attack long enough to allow linebacker Vince Williams to tackle Green-Ellis behind the line.

A third "favorite play" candidate was offered up to Woods: a pass late in the third quarter in which he drove the center into QB Andy Dalton's lap and then batted down the pass.

Woods just gave it his best aw-shucks smile and refused to put his heads in the clouds.

"That's expected when your number's called," he said. "I just go out there and do my job, shake everybody's hand, and go home."

Home is Elton, La., where Woods was born and raised. But he swears he wants to make Pittsburgh his home for the remainder of his professional career, and that's as far as he wants to talk about off-season contract negotiations.

Those negotiations will certainly be helped by his ability to play two positions and -- he can say now -- play them well.

"This was really my first game at nose where I kind of was tested with different blocks and just kind of things of that nature, and I felt good after the game," he said. "I felt like I put my best foot forward and did all the things I was asked to do."

McLendon is expected back Sunday, but there's no doubt that Woods will be thick in the rotation. In the last four games, with McLendon both healthy and injured, Woods has averaged 28 snaps and made a total of 12 tackles, including two sacks.

Is Flynn on the hit list now?

"I wouldn't put it that way," Woods said. "The big thing I remember about Matt was he was just a good dude. I remember he was a guy you could walk up and talk to. He wasn't one of those guys who thought 'I'm going to make it' and those types of things. I have nothing but good memories of Matt. He's a good guy."

And those memories will dissipate once the ball is snapped.

"Maybe so," Wood said with a laugh. "Maybe so."


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