The story of LaMarr Woodley having to scrounge for change the first time he drove from Ann Arbor, Mich., to Pittsburgh is a well-documented -- and funny -- one.
A little more than a year later, the Steelers' outside linebacker is reminded of it whenever he stops at the turnpike booth, where he paid a toll with the quarters he eventually found in his vehicle.
"Usually, every time it's the same lady that I didn't have enough change for going through," Woodley said with a laugh.
If it seems to Woodley that he can't get away from that toll collector, he hopes opposing quarterbacks come to feel the same way about him.
Woodley is ticketed to start at left outside linebacker, and the promise he showed as a situational pass rusher last season played no small part in the Steelers allowing Clark Haggans to leave as a free-agent. Lawrence Timmons, another second-year linebacker, also is slated for a bigger role in 2008 after he was relegated to mostly special-teams duty last season because of injuries and his place behind a Pro Bowler at right outside linebacker.
The two highly touted 'backers are expected to make a quantum leap this season given their familiarity with the Steelers' system.
"It's been proven over time that guys have the ability to take a giant leap between year one and year two," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "An understanding of what's required, of what lies ahead, are all factors in doing that. We like where (Timmons and Woodley) are. The athleticism and talents that attracted them to us originally are showing through."
Timmons, the first draft pick of the Tomlin era, didn't get a chance to show much of anything last season. A groin injury that eventually was diagnosed as a sports hernia cost him significant practice time during the offseason as well as in training camp.
The 15th overall pick of the 2007 draft played in all 16 regular-season games as a rookie but registered just 13 tackles.
With James Harrison entrenched at right outside linebacker, the Steelers moved Timmons inside, where he'll compete with incumbent Larry Foote for a starting job.
Even if the 6-1, 234-pound Timmons does not unseat Foote at right inside linebacker, he still is expected to get significant playing time as a swing linebacker. That is why the versatile Timmons, who turns 22 Wednesday, is also practicing at right outside linebacker.
"I want to be a flexible guy, and my coaches are helping me out to do that," Timmons said. "I'll be at outside for a second, and then I'll be back inside. It's helping me stay here for the long haul because I'm so flexible. I'm just trying to use that as an advantage."
Asked whether he prefers playing inside or outside, Timmons said, "Whichever one puts me on the field."
Woodley got on the field more than Timmons did last season, but the former Michigan star was limited by a nagging hamstring injury as well as the transition he had to make from defensive end to outside linebacker.
Woodley still had six sacks, including two in the Steelers' loss to Jacksonville in an AFC wild-card game, but the 6-2, 265-pounder said he didn't accomplish the goals he had set for himself prior to the season.
"Even as a young guy, you always want to play a lot, and when you don't play a lot, you're kind of disappointed in yourself," said Woodley, a second-round pick in the 2007 draft.
Woodley will play plenty this season, and he intends to shed about five pounds to prepare for his increased role.
Playing a little lighter, he said, will help him when he drops into coverage to track running backs, tight ends and even wide receivers from time to time.
"You come in as a rookie, and you kind of get thrown into the fire," Woodley said. "I feel like I'm prepared now."
we sure know how to pick them.....
I never knew that Timmons had a Hernia. Hopefully he can prove this year that he's worth being a 1st round pick and not a complete bust.