Lamar Woodley Released: A Reflection on his Years in Pittsburgh

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Lamar Woodley, the former second round pick has officially been released by the Pittsburgh Steelers. The move comes just four years after the team gave Woodley the biggest contract ever given to a Steelers defender. That year, he was coming off of a 13.5 sack season in 2009. The Steelers clearly thought Lamar Woodley was going to be the cornerstone to their defense for the next 10 years and paid him accordingly.

Steeler fans held Woodley in very high regard until he suffered a lower body injury in 2011 against the Patriots. From that point on, he simply has not been the same player. He didn’t have much of an impact in the remainder of the 2011 season.

During the 2012 season, anonymous sources called out Woodley’s lack of conditioning and focus to the media. His linebacker coach Keith Butler was quoted as saying he came in to camp close to 300 pounds. All of the bad publicity turned into a very pedestrian season for Lamar Woodley, as he only played in 13 games and registered just four sacks.

He seemingly rededicated himself to conditioning as he came in to the 2013 camp in great shape but the injury bug caught him again and Jason Worilds reaped the benefits, performing well in Woodley’s spot. The Steelers have now decided to move in another direction leaving Woodley searching for a new team. How did it go downhill so fast? What can the Steelers learn from this situation?

First of all, I don’t blame the Steelers for giving Woodley the contract at the time. He was historically productive in the playoffs averaging two sacks per playoff game over his first four playoff games. Then he had the amazing 2009 season. I felt that The Steelers did the right thing at the time.

In hindsight it appears that Woodley phoned it in once he signed his contract. Dedication and inner fire unfortunately cannot be measured at the combine, pro day workouts, or contract years. When you enter a contractual agreement with a player and the contract goes into his 30s, the team is essentially saying, “You’re our guy. We are making a solid investment in you to be secure for the better part of your career. We expect the same investment in the team”. Woodley swindled the Steelers in the end. This happens to the best of teams.

However, the Steelers could have done a better job of managing his contract in the event this day would come. The restructuring game the Steelers normally play is fine for the present but it pushes money back and cripples cap space. As a result, the Steelers now have Woodley’s contract counting almost $9 million against the cap in this season and the 2015 season. The Steelers must be more responsible with the cap situation to ensure something like this does not happen again.

Good luck on your NFL journey Lamar. I’m sad things could not work out but at the end of the day this is a business and employers need reliable employees in this business. Show the dedication and inner fire that made you a fan favorite in Pittsburgh in the first place because once the speed goes and you are not as strong as you once were, that’s what is going to make you stick around in this league.

 

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