You can be assured that Steelers linebacker coach Keith Butler will tell you like it is. There’s no punches pulled with him, that’s for sure.
Butler is the one who said last year during training camp that linebacker LaMarr Woodley “needs to get his big butt into shape” when talking about the injury-plagued and out-of-shape 2011 season for high Woodley.
A year later that included another out-of-shape, injury-filled, sub-par performance year, Butler pulled no punches again when it came to his outside linebacker.
This time, it was nothing but positive.
“Right now, Wood is where we need to have him,” Butler said. “He looks good. He looks real good.”
Woodley was widely criticized by just about everybody (including his teammates) for not being in top shape during a 2012 season in which he missed three games and collected only four sacks on the heels of signing a six-year, $61.5 million deal in 2011 that made him the second highest paid player on the team behind Ben Roethlisberger.
Butler said he talked to Woodley in the offseason about getting into better shape.
“We talked about it,” Butler said. “You think about the logistics of the NFL: A team is paying you $7-8 million dollars and they aren’t paying you to watch from the sidelines. I am a coach and they don’t pay me $7-8 million to stand on the sidelines and that’s what he’s been doing. If you are not on the field, you can’t earn your money. They might pay for one year, but they aren’t going to pay for the next year. That is the matter-of-fact of the NFL.”
Woodley worked out in Arizona during the offseason and is visibly in better shape than he’s been in over the past couple years. Woodley has yet to speak publicly since the start of training camp last week.
The Steelers are need of a big season from Woodley, especially with James Harrison gone from the other side.
Woodley has 52 career sacks in six years but only 13 came over the past two years. He’s missed nine games over the past two years because of hamstring and ankle injuries.