LaMarr Woodley considered himself a Cowboys fan until junior high when he started playing fullback and wearing a No. 36 jersey.

I called myself the Bus, Woodley said Thursday. Even since then Ive been a Steelers fan.

The significance of that anecdote: it is hard to imagine Woodley and the Steelers ever parting ways though it could happen in the near future.

Woodley, 26, has been wildly productive and to say he has outplayed first contract is an understatement.

Woodley made a base salary of $550,000 in 2010 and joined James Harrison as the only players in team history to record at least 10 sacks in three consecutive seasons.

Woodley loves everything about Pittsburgh -- from the fans here to the fact that it is only about a five-hour drive to his offseason home in Michigan.

The Steelers should love everything about Woodley -- from the fact that he has been at his best during the postseason to the team-first attitude he has shown both on and off the field.

Woodley is in the final season of his contract.

And the Steelers typically sign cornerstone players to a long-term deal before they reach the final year of their contract.

They probably didnt do that with Woodley because of the uncertain labor situation. Woodley still could have made his contract an issue but said virtually nothing about it all season.

He explained why after one of the Steelers' final practices of the season in Pittsburgh.

If Im going into this season worried about my contract then Im not focused on going to the Super Bowl and Im not focused on this team, Woodley said. Id be selfish just to go out here and think about myself and the contract situation. Ive got the guys on this team counting on me to go out and play my best. Im not going to let them down because Im worried about my contract situation.

That commitment to the Steelers is one of many reasons why the organization needs to take care of Woodley -- at some point.

With the collective bargaining agreement expiring in early March, the Steelers and Woodley will have to wait until new rules are in place before they can talk about a long-term contract.

It's hard to imagine they won't be able t0 agree on something that will keep Woodley in a Steelers jersey -- No. 56, not No. 36 -- for a long, long time.

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