Woodley, a Big Ten secret no more

The Steelers' "other" pass rusher, LaMarr Woodley, can make a run at the NFL sacks title with a big game against Marc Colombo and the Dallas Cowboys.

PITTSBURGH – LaMarr Woodley has kept tabs on Anthony Spencer.

"I kind of follow the progress of every defensive end who was drafted ahead of me," said Woodley.

But especially Spencer.

"Yeah," Woodley admitted. "There were three defensive ends who went before me, but he was the only one that played outside linebacker."

Woodley was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year coming out of Michigan, an accomplished four-year starter, but draft experts called Spencer the better DE/OLB prospect, and the Dallas Cowboys traded up in the first round to draft Spencer. Woodley slipped to the second round and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Today, Spencer is a backup to Greg Ellis and Woodley is fifth in the NFL with 11.5 sacks.

"We liked both players. Both of them are very good players," said Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. "We really liked LaMarr's size and strength and we just thought he could be that left outside backer and would fit us pretty well. Well, guess what? He's fit us better than pretty well."

Woodley goes up against right tackle Marc Colombo this afternoon. A big game by Woodley could put him within striking distance of the NFL sacks lead.

"It definitely motivated me," Woodley said of draft day. "And it kind of played in my favor. I got an opportunity to play on a team that I rooted for when I was younger, a 3-4 scheme. Being around these types of guys, guys who actually care about the game, we're like one big family here. So I feel like going in the second round actually helped me more than being a first-rounder. Maybe the money was different, but being a part of a great team, I enjoy that much more than the dollar."

BARBER OUT

Cowboys running back Marion Barber missed the trip to Pittsburgh and will sit home with his dislocated right pinkie toe, according to ESPN.

Barber is the Cowboys leading rusher with 870 yards (3.9 avg.) and seven touchdowns. Dubbed "a violent runner" by Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin this week, Barber will be replaced by rookie Tashard Choice (5-10, 208), a fourth-round pick out of Georgia Tech. Choice has 30 carries for 147 yards (4.9) this season.

With backup Felix Jones on injured reserve with a hamstring injury, the only other back listed on the Cowboys' depth chart is fullback Deon Anderson (5-10, 245), a second-year player out of UConn.

FUN WITH NUMBERS

-- The Steelers trail the all-time overall series with the Cowboys, 14-15, but they have a 2-1 lead in Super Bowl games.

-- The Steelers are first in the NFL in defending kickoff returns and third in defending punt returns. The Cowboys' main return man will be Pacman Jones, who averaged 5.0 per punt return before drawing a six-game suspension six games ago.

-- Since 1997, the Cowboys are 18-31 in December. The Steelers are 29-17.

-- Since 1980, the Cowboys are 15-13 the game after playing on Thanksgiving. They are 11-3 in those games after winning by 10 more on Thanksgiving. And on the road, after winning Thanksgiving games by 10 or more, the Cowboys are 9-2. The Cowboys beat the Seattle Seahawks, 34-9, this Thanksgiving.

-- The forecasted low tonight is 16 degrees, with a 13-m.p.h. wind off the confluence. The Cowboys are 0-1 in Ice Bowls.


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