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Is Woodley the missing key on defense?

He hasn’t played a full game since October 30th against the Patriots when he left with the hamstring injury that has plagued him since. When it first happened he was optimistic about playing the following week, but we all knew it was going to be longer. Then there was hope that he could return to full strength after the bye week. That came and went and save for limited action during that stretch he’s been inactive. Jason Worilds has filled in nicely and gotten better as the weeks have gone bye but let’s face it he’s not on the same level as Woodley is, not many pass rushers are.

The Steelers have the #1 defense in the NFL once again, and #1 against the pass without having the Pharaoh in the lineup. The pass rush has suffered, registering a mediocre 35.0 sacks on the season (tied for 17th overall with the Jets). Normally you expect a Dick Lebeau defense to have at least 45 QB takedowns by the end of the regular season, but injuries have taken their toll on the Steelers linebackers. Since they are the stars of a 3-4 defense, it’s a big issue to overcome. The standard may be the standard according to Mike Tomlin, but there is inevitably a drop off to some degree when back up players come in. Perhaps if Jason Worilds had been able to stay healthy all year he could have improved his game quicker and helped the pass rush register more pressures and sacks but that’s water under the bridge now. Lawrence Timmons played outside for several weeks straight, and while he’s got good skills to rush the QB he’s not exactly a beast at it just yet. Musical chairs at linebacker has been a problem all year, but to their credit the players have done an admirable job filling in at positions they are accustomed to playing.

James Harrison has 9 Sacks on the year and 2 Forced Fumbles. Woodley also has 9 Sacks, all of which coming in the first 8 games of the season. The next closest player on the defense is Defensive End Brett Keisel with 3. We’ve been saying that, “oh just wait until Woodley and Harrison are on the field together”, things will be different. Perhaps that’s true and hopefully it is, at least it better be. A top flight pass rush in the post season can be the difference between winning and losing.

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