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Woodley the gladiator?

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

The Steelers will release LaMarr Woodley before the NFL’s 4 p.m. opening of free agency, beat man Alan Robinson reports.

This marks the end of a star-crossed career that fizzled miserably down stretch, even as it marks an opportunity for the team to take his cap hit — scheduled to be $13.59 million for 2014 — and apply it anew, maybe into one of all these cornerbacks they’ve been contacting over the weekend.

For what it’s worth, Woodley just posted this pic — without explanation — to his Facebook page …


Your guess is as good as mine. He couldn’t possibly be thinking of himself as a gladiator, as even the least of the gladiators participated in more than 56 percent of their team’s snaps.

I spoke my mind on Woodley for the Dec. 22 column, but I want to hear from you after this development, not just about him but also about what this could mean. In particular, the next item at hand is whether Ike Taylor takes a pay cut. I’m guessing he will. Harbors zero ill will, very much wants to stay put.

Author: Dejan Kovacevic

Dejan Kovacevic, a lifelong Pittsburgher, is an award-winning sports columnist for Trib Total Media covering the Steelers, Penguins, Pirates, Pitt and, recently, his fourth Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He also appears on WPXI-TV's 'Subway Final Word’ and hosts a weekly show on TribLIVE Radio. For 2011, he was named one of the country's top four columnists by the AP Sports Editors. For 2012, he was named one of the country's top three columnists by the National Headliners. For 2013, he was named the state's top columnist by the Keystone Press Awards and top columnist in Western Pennsylvania by the Golden Quills.


  1. Brandie says:

    Going to take a shot in the dark on this one…Mr. Woodley feels as is he is the fall guy with regard to the mediocrity the Steelers have shown the last two seasons. Thing is, if you constantly show up to camp out of shape and with an I don’t care attitude, well, don’t be surprised that your a$$ is going to be jettisoned. Not shedding any tears here.

  2. Arriba Wilver says:

    My interpretation of the picture is he still doesn’t get it and it just confirms, not that there was any needed, that he had to go. I don’t have the cap stuff, but have to think the Steelers knew what they were doing there, too, in terms of the timing.

  3. Arriba Wilver says:

    Either that, or he just saw the 300 sequel.

  4. fatboy1271 says:

    Agreed with the two other guesses… He believes he is the guy getting kicked into the pit. Not sad to see him go, like so many of players in the past, and I would love for Ike to join him! Tired of hearing he’s “swaggin'” (ugh) and then him being a liability on well over 50% of plays at him or not.

  5. Rbilak says:

    - Woodley had some great years, especially in playoffs, he got big contract and he got bigger. When you cannot count on a guy, there is no need to pay him. Much like Willie Colon. I heard Woodley and Sanders on radio, I did not get the impression from either that they took any responsibility for their poor play. I remember Sanders laughing about dropping a ball while running w/o being hit. Not a couple guys I want on my team. This offseason Woodley decides to finally work out, why? I agree with decision to say bye bye. Appreciate the good years but time to move on. Dead money, dead weight player. Now as for Ike, use his money to sign a real cornerback. Not worth 2-3 million. He was ranked worst CB in league. Time to move on.

  6. SteelDad says:

    I’ve watched Woodley since his days at Saginaw High here in the Mitten and later at UM of course the Steelers.
    What always concerned me about him was desire. When things went well and played like a mad man and when they didn’t, he would disappear in games.
    This was the right move and I wish him well but he has no one to blame but himself for getting released.

  7. JohninOshkosh says:

    Maybe he feels like the Persians and King Xerxes at the Battle of Thermopylae ?

    Or, maybe is a fan of Frank Miller.

    Still, very odd.

  8. Alex T. says:

    I believe the Steelers will try hard to sign a mid-tier free agent CB and then cut Ike. Should they not land a free agent, they’ll stick with Ike at a reduced salary ($2-3 million) and look hard at drafting Gilbert or Dennard.

  9. Daquido_Bazzini says:

    Woodley…..This was a classic case of being blinded by the almighty dollar bill.

  10. Arriba Wilver says:

    Can’t wait to see Sin City 2.

  11. Arriba Wilver says:

    Just noticed that it is a white guy pushing a black guy into the pit. If THAT was his message he’s even further removed from reality than I thought.

  12. Steve says:

    One of my best Steelers regular season game memories was Woodley grabbing a Bret Favre fumble out of mid-air and running it back for a touchdown against the Vikings. I think he had a lot of talent and earned his big contract then he got lazy, didn’t take care of himself and was regularly injured. It’s time to move on.

    Worilds and Jones better perform this season.

  13. Skyler says:

    If Lamar Woodley is implying that’s him getting kicked into the hole – it’s the first time we’ve seen him in 4 years.

  14. AZ Steelers says:

    It means that the Steelers have taken a hard look at their record over the past 2 years and are making some decisions that have long-term implications – it’s about time! This focus on the cap hits/dead money is just “noise” – if the cap is projected to rise as has been reported, the dead money becomes less of an issue. The “signal” in all of this is about the long-term (2-5 year) success of the franchise and the need to perform or pay the consequences. This is a business, and you cannot allow your assets to perform at sub-standard levels for extended periods of time.

    The pressure is on to have a good draft, but it appears 2014 will be a baseline year and expectations are for continued improvement in the future. “Obviously”, they don’t believe LaMarr’s hamstrings will be any stronger in the future and moved on.

    As far as the picture, well LaMarr feels kicked in the gut. Well, “that’s like your opinion, man” ……… Steelers fans are relieved.

  15. Steve says:

    As others have stated, I think it’s time to move on from Ike Taylor too. Unlike Woodley, I think Ike poured his heart and soul into training but due to age, his skills have really dropped off. It happens to the best of them. I will miss his Sunday Night Football intro though. Swagger.

  16. Brandie says:

    I tried to ignore that elephant in the room, but now that you mention it, he is living in a land of marshmallow fluff, pinwheels, and unicorns. If he cannot take a realistic view of his skills and his lack of interest in football and playing the position consistently, then goodbye, good luck, and time to get on with your life’s work.

  17. Steve says:

    He can’t be implying he’s the one doing the kicking. His injured hammy would never let him raise his leg up that high!

  18. Brandie says:

    Which paid for exorbitant amounts of cheeseburgers, fries, cheesecake, and a hot tub of lazy.

  19. Steve says:

    These guys all go out of their way to state, “It’s a business.” It is and that’s why neither player nor team should expect any loyalty

    A. When the player signs a whopping free agent contract with a new team or
    B. His current team cuts him when they conclude he can no longer perform to an acceptable standard.

  20. Jandy says:

    …or non-work…

  21. Arriba Wilver says:

    Agree about the difference, Steve. Ike just fell off a cliff at some point in the season. It wasn’t even from game 1.

  22. Gladiator or gladiola?

    I was glad to see that guy get pushed in that hole in the 300. Glad to see LaMar get the heave-ho, also.

  23. Dom says:

    I feel Woodley has the right to be upset.

    He agreed to a contract and now the Steelers are backing out of it.

    I know we’re not breaking any rules but it sounds at least a tad unfair to break our agreement when it is not going the way we planned it would.

    A deal’s a deal.

  24. Jandy says:

    But Dom, part of the deal is Woodley doing his job…and doing it well. When he sucks, he’s not holding up HIS end of the deal. Business is business…

  25. JohninOshkosh says:

    Me, as well. But, alas, no Carla Gugino.

  26. Dom says:

    After this offseason we will be going from the oldest defense to one of the youngest.

    Clark, Foote, Woodley, Ike, and Keisel are either gone or could be off the starting lineup.

    Ryan Clark is going to be replaced by Shamrko Thomas nearly reducing 10 years off of the D.

    We could head into the season with Troy being the only man defense in his 30s.

  27. Brandon says:

    Woodley has not earned the right to continue at the agreed upon contract – cutting him is the right decision. That said, the steelers are now very weak in a key area for this team – Woirlds has 1/2 season of being acceptable and a longer history of being injured….no history for Jones and no back-ups that are the caliber the Steelers need – given all of the holes which need to be filled in the draft, this doesn’t look very good for 2014-15, but they need to start to rebuild.

    Dom – Thomas will not be playing free safety in place of Clark; he was drafted as a strong safety and doesn’t have the skills to fill that role….free safety is another hole that they desperately need a solution for in the coming year.

  28. Arriba Wilver says:

    With ya there, Bud. With ya.

  29. Jim S. says:

    So, the Steelers signed Woodley to an awful contract. No one to blame but themselves for not seeing he was not a guy to be trusted with a $61.5 million deal – even though Woodley seems to be taking 95% of the blame in this town and the Steelers about 5% by my estimate. I think it can be said that he is no Andrew McCutchen – a guy who outperforms his large contract and repays the team for its smart decision and faith in him.

    So, by NFL rules, the team does not have to honor its contract. In fact not only does it not have to honor its contract, but it cannot sign another player to that dead money even if it wanted to. Sounds like a nice little windfall of profit built into the system by NFL teams.

  30. Nate83 says:

    This was not by accident. Sink or swim it’s the right thing to do. You just can’t keep running the same guys out there and expect different results. They need to find out what they have in some of these guys so they are not just guessing when it’s time to draft what positions need help. You also can’t continue to wait until a players third year to see what he can do like they did with Heyward and Worlids. I like that they are throwing Shamarko and Jarvis Jones out there and seeing what they are made of.

  31. Arriba Wilver says:

    C’mon, Dom. Nobody’s breaking any deal. You think the numbers would be the same if they were guaranteed? I don’t. The deal’s the deal. If anybody broke it, it was Woodley by not performing. This ain’t baseball.

  32. Arriba Wilver says:

    It’s not just NFL rules, Jim. It’s contract law.

  33. Jim S. says:

    I keep hearing how the Steelers are not in a bad cap situation. Everyone says they can and will get under the cap because the cap keeps going up. But, how is it not bad to continue to push dead money into the future, thereby limiting your ability to sign much needed free agents to help this team now? A lot of teams seem to have a great deal of cap space available, and those teams will be making upgrades through free agency. I don’t see this team signing any impactful free agents – again.

    How this is not bad is something I am struggling to comprehendre I am thankful that the Steelers have been very successful for a long time. But, that ended a couple of years ago. Their prospects don’t look good to me in the hear and now or for the near future. I still say they are a blindside late hit on the QB away from being 3-13.

  34. Arriba Wilver says:

    Why do you think they have a guaranteed portion?

  35. Jim S. says:

    BTW, my computer thinks comprehendre is apparently Spanish for comprehend.

  36. Jim S. says:

    My issue isn’t really with contract law, Arriba. It’s more that maybe this is a tactic used by NFL teams to pad the bottom line. Sign a deal knowing you will probably not be paying out a large portion of it, with no way to apply that money to anyone else once you cut ties with the player.

    Can you imagine what would be said if a certain other owner in this town were to get away with this? I don’t think he’d be getting a pass for doing it over and over. We NFL fans just accept it.

  37. Nate83 says:

    Bottom line is they have to win. Losing is never good for business. You are correct they are not spending actual money towards the cap but bad contracts like Woodley definitely do hurt their ability to compete. I don’t see anyway that the Steelers philosophy would be to sign players to contracts they know they won’t have to pay just to pocket 15-20 million a year because it can’t be respent on other players.

  38. Nate83 says:

    Being cap compliant does not mean you don’t have cap problems. If the cap goes up 20 million next year all that means is the Steelers can stop kicking money forward and they can meet the cap but there still isn’t any money available to actually spend on free agents to make the team better. Teams like the Browns may have 40-60 million available to them to spend on free agents to immediately get better.

    As it currently stands the Steelers way of getting better is drafting well. That takes both time and some luck.

  39. Maddamma says:

    I’m sure Woodley’s intention is to demonstarte that he’s been cast off as a scapegoat by the big, bad, bully Steelers, but he picked the wrong picture for anyone who is familiar with 300.

    If Woodley is comparing himself to Leonidas, I find it amusing and ironic that Woodley, a UM grad, would compare himself to the Spartans (MSU). If he thinks he is anything like the fictional or historical Leonidas, he is mistaken. Leonidas would not excuse himself from the field of battle with a calf injury or be physically unprepared for battle. He was willing to, and did, sacrifice his life for his country.

    Football is not life and death and I am certain that Woodley’s injuries are real, but there is a correlation to be made with the heart and preparation that it takes to sustain excellence. There is no doubting that Woodley’s decline in production began after he signed the big contract – maybe he just let off the gas a bit once he had financial stability for life.

    If Woodley is comparing himself to the Persian messenger, then that would be appropriate to the scene pictured, though probably not to his way of thinking. Leonidas sent the messenger to his death after what he perceived was a show of disrespect. If Leonidas is the Steelers, that fits.

    Maybe, he’s attempting to demonstrate defiance. If so, good for him.

    What I know for certain is this – I don’t really care what his intentions are. He’s gone. He was a great player for the Steelers for a few years and he was instrumental to a dominating defense. That should not be forgotten. But he’s gone now.

    Mr. Woodley, thanks and good luck.

  40. Jim S. says:

    My point exactly, Nate. Every team gets cap compliant every year. They have to.

  41. Dave says:

    Woodley was a gladiator on the field until he got the big contract. Hasn’t played to contract expectations since. Didn’t seem to bother him NOT to be on the field. Time to move on with Worilds.

  42. Jim S. says:

    But, alas, his cap hit lives on …

  43. Praveen says:

    The deal is for the signing bonus. Part of the deal for later years is the possibility the player gets cut. he got paid for showing out of shape. Steelers honored their deal. Woodley gets his signing bonus in full. This is not MLB with guaranteed deals.

  44. Baywatch says:

    +++ PLUS Thumbs DOWN!

  45. techrat77 says:

    Woodley will be a big pickup for some team, IF he stays healthy. The motivation to prove the Steelers wrong will be his driving force. Sadly, there was no longer any driving force behind him in Pittsburgh, so this is definitely the right move. It’s a win for the Steelers because it allows them to move forward and it will be a win for Woodley because someone out there will be willing to overpay him. I wish him the best as long as his opponent isn’t wearing black & gold.

  46. Arriba Wilver says:

    No comparison, Jim. None at all. Totally apples and oranges. The other owner is working under different rules.

  47. Jim S. says:

    They seem to be making a habit of cutting guys with years and money left, as well as renegotiating existing contracts, which exacerbates the problem going forward.

    It’s either a clever ploy or very poor talent evaluation and management of the budget.

  48. Arriba Wilver says:

    It will be interesting to see what he gets with his recent history. This ain’t baseball. Certainly no huge signing bonus.

  49. Jim S. says:

    So, you don’t think any NFL owner has ever used the ability to terminate contracts with years and time left to pocket more money? I’m not saying the Steelers are doing that, but what is it about NFL owners that no one even considers this as a possible motive? You have to admit, the NFL salary cap rules can cushion the blow of terminating a bad contract in a situation such as Woodley’s.

  50. Arriba Wilver says:

    That makes no sense to me, Jim. It’s a collectively bargained agreement.

  51. Jim S. says:


    A “win” for the Steelers? Only the Steelers can make such a disastrous decision and be applauded for it. I know they have built up a lot of goodwill, and deservedly so. But, they screwed up bad here.

  52. techrat77 says:

    Yes, it will be interesting to see, indeed. I do believe he’ll be motivated to have one exceptional year for someone. If he succeeds in doing that, he’ll probably be done. Of course there is the possibility injuries will make him a liability for his next team as well. He’s definitely a gamble.

  53. pattonbb says:

    Very well put, Maddamma.

  54. techrat77 says:

    I agree, they did “screw up bad” here when they gave him the big contract. In retrospect, it should have been loaded up with incentive clauses. The “win” here is not continuing to carry this mistake forward like an albatross around their collective necks.

  55. Max says:

    White guy kicking a black guy in the nay-nays was Max’s first reaction.

    Poor, millionaire Woodley. Maybe he can collaborate on a book with Tweethard Mendenhall.

  56. Jim S. says:


    It is entirely possible to not sign guys to contracts that you know there is a very good likelihood you will be terminating early. In fact, I recall that used to be the stated policy of the Steelers, and they held the line on it for a long time. They were proud to say they saw contracts through to the end.

    Then, they stopped doing that, and not only did they stop doing it, but it seems to be their new policy to sign a lot of guys to deals they never expect to see through to conclusion. Their cap situation has been bad for awhile now, and they keep kicking that can down the road. Not every team is in the same situation. In fact, very few are.

    I am just being facetious in suggesting they are doing this to add to the bottom line. I really don’t believe the Steelers would do that. I was just trying to illustrate the absurdity of how much of a pass the Steelers get for their bad decisions and bad strategies. I missed the mark on making that point.

    I don’t think this franchise is run anywhere near as well as it was a handful of years ago. I don’t see much accountability for decisions. Winning just doesn’t seem that important at the top to me any more.

  57. Jim S. says:

    Got it Techrat. It was definitely the right move to cut ties with him.

  58. Paul Lotus says:

    It was definitely time for Woodley to go. Made some big plays early in his career as a Steeler, but last couple of seasons, pretty much non – existant. Even when he did play, he never made an impact.

  59. tpbco says:


    If you are refering to Woodley’s contract extension, tell me how it was wrong THEN, not now with perfect 20-20 hindsight.

    Regardless of how it worked out, they would have been roasted from here to Sunday, given his career and potential impact thru the life of the extension. I would be hard pressed to think of even one person NOT in favor of the extension at that time – and to think he would have signed some different kind of contract (incentive laden) – I just SMH, there was no precendent nor justification…plus – he wouldn’t have done it.

    The reasons at this point, does it really matter if it was because he got lazy or it was his body naturally breaking down? Nope. It didn’t work (period). That happens, Steelers now have made their decision and we move on. At the time of the extension, he was a force and a good Steeler-everything called for that extension.

    Let’s not minimize that.

  60. Arriba Wilver says:

    The deal’s the deal. And the deal is the CBA. The players don’t like it, they can negotiate a new deal next time. But this deal, and the ability to play with the cap money benefits the players, too. That’s why they have the guaranteed money.

    What I’m saying is there is no comparison to talking about Nutting in this context. Never said no one ever did anything or took advantage of anything. But you sure did seem to be saying the Steelers were/are.

  61. Arriba Wilver says:

    I think cutting Woodley is a sign they DO want to win badly.

  62. Daquido_Bazzini says:

    You’re kidding right?
    That’s not how it works in the NFL…..

  63. bpn8pitt says:

    Agree. At the time Woodley, Timmons and Harrison contracts were applauded, universally.

    Dejan did say a year or so go that maybe 150 million for three LBs was overpaying.

    Since more teams employ the 3-4, the young cheap replacement is harder to find ( Bruce Davis, Stevenson sylvestor, etc). Hence extensions. Hence the occasional blunder.

  64. bpn8pitt says:


  65. Ghost says:

    You guys got it all wrong. Woodley could no longer do his post-sack “Super Kick,” so he had to post a photo of someone else doing it.

  66. 66sports says:

    My question to all the critics about the Steelers signing, and ultimately cutting Woodley is this – if the Steelers sign Woirlds to a long term deal after a half season of productivity and he plays like the part time player he has historically been, would you expect the team to keep him or cut him and move on? The best case for them NOW is to step up and cut a deal. Then, you evaluate it’s merits moving forward. He will get a signing bonus up front which will cover him if he fails to perform.

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