By Mark Kaboly | Tribune-Review
LaMarr Woodley already has sack years of 11.5, 13.5 and 10 within the first three seasons as the Steelers’ starting outside linebacker.
Woodley is the only player in NFL history to record at least two sacks in four consecutive postseason games and has 11 sacks in eight playoff games.
Impressive to all … except for maybe his position coach Keith Butler.
Even though Woodley has put up staggering numbers (44 sacks in 57 starts) since becoming a starter in 2008, Butler believes that Woodley could be one of the best who ever played the game — if he wants to.
“LaMarr, like a lot of players, sometimes it takes a few years to understand what the league is all about and how competitive the league is,” Butler said. “A lot of guys come in the league and have a lot of natural ability. At some point in time they realize they have to work in order to stand out in this league. If you don’t work, you are just going to be another guy — a good player, but not a great player.”
Butler was referring to Woodley’s on-again, off-again weight issues.
Listed at 265 pounds, Woodley showed up at camp last year overweight, which led to a slow first month of the season followed by a hamstring injury later in the year that kept him out six games and parts of two others.
“Wood has to decide if he wants to be a great player,” Butler said. “When he decides that, he is going to be a bear.”
Woodley had his least productive year finishing with nine sacks and only 39 tackles. The first four games, he had 1.5 sacks and 16 total tackles.
“He just wasn’t in shape,” Butler said. “He’ll tell you that. If he don’t tell you that, I’ll tell you that, I don’t care. He has to get his big butt in shape, I tell him that all of the time: Don’t come to camp weighing 290.”
Woodley took Butler’s advice and came into camp close to his listed weight, but had been nursing a sore groin that kept him out of full-contact practice for four days. He returned fully for Sunday’s practice at their facility on the Southside.
“He has gotten himself in shape this year,” Butler said. “I am pleased at where he is at this year.”
Woodley has been dominant in the past, and especially in the big-time games. His sack of Kurt Warner late in Super Bowl XLIII sealed the game for the Steelers. Even last year when teammate James Harrison was out with an orbital bone fracture, Woodley picked up his game and collected 7.5 sacks in the four games Harrison was out. The Steelers are 5-2 in postseason games when Woodley records a sack.
“I am always rising up to the challenge,” Woodley said. “My goals are to get back to the Super Bowl and win it. When you set that high goal there, everything else just plays out. I really don’t need to set personal goals.”