We have placed LaMarr Woodley on IR and signed linebacker Jamaal Westerman to fill the roster spot.— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 17, 2013
Woodley, 29, left Pittsburgh's 30-20 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 15 early in the first quarter and did not return. He failed to record any defensive statistics in the Steelers' victory, which brought them to 6-8 as they attempt to avoid finishing below .500 for the first time since 2003.
Rather than keeping him on the roster for two relatively meaningless games—Pittsburgh has not been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but Football Outsiders gives it an 0.8 percent chance—the team decided to shut Woodley down early.
The move caps the third straight frustrating season for Woodley, who was viewed as a defensive anchor when he signed a six-year, $61 million deal in 2011. He has missed at least three games in each of the last three years and has not recorded a double-digit sack total since 2010. In 24 games combined over the past two seasons, Woodley has only nine sacks—a disconcertingly low total for someone paid like an elite pass-rusher.
“In recent years he has had to battle some injuries, unfortunately for him and for us,” head coach Mike Tomlin said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Gerry Dulac and Ed Bouchette.
With Woodley on the book for a $13.5 million cap hit for 2014, these final two games may serve as a test for what the Steelers defense looks like without him. Rookie linebacker Jarvis Jones is expected to fill in Woodley's spot in the lineup with him out, and 25-year-old Jason Worilds has compiled a team-high seven sacks at the left outside linebacker spot.
Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke commented on Woodley's contract and the team's cap situation:
LaMarr Woodley another messy contract for the #Steelers. Their recent cap issues aren't going away.— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurke_SI) December 17, 2013
There is always the possibility that Woodley restructures his deal to stay in Pittsburgh, which is probably a must considering the team's untenable cap situation going forward. Woodley's production just hasn't matched up to what the Steelers expected, and with the injuries starting to pile up as he approaches his 30th birthday, he may wind up finishing his career elsewhere like many other former Pittsburgh greats.
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