Al Woods Capitalizing on Extended Work


Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

Ziggy Hood stepped up last night and played one of his best games of the 2013 season against the Cincinnati Bengals. The former starter, who was pressed into duty once again due to Brett Keisel’s injured foot, recorded four tackles, one sack and recovered a fumble.

Lost in the shuffle of Hood’s recent success was the solid play the team received from Al Woods. The backup nose tackle  has stepped up over the last month for the hobbled Steve McLendon, and Mike Tomlin has noticed how well Woods has performed during that span. During his most recent press conference, Tomlin said the following about the former L.S.U. Tiger:

"I’d have to look at the tape. Obviously, I appreciate his effort. Obviously he’s [Al Woods] stepping outside of his normal role in terms of the number of snaps he’s playing and that’s appreciated. But we know that he’s capable. I’m sure he’s excited about the opportunity that he’s being given."

Woods’ emergence and versatility have been definite pluses for Pittsburgh’s defensive front as of late. To his credit, the fourth-year pro has stepped up well (10 tackles and 2.0 sacks) since McLendon injured his ankle during the Steelers’ Week 12 win over the Cleveland Browns.

Last night against the Bengals, Woods manned the A-Gaps well and did a tremendous job of plugging the interior of Cincinnati’s offensive line. Overall, Pittsburgh’s front-seven stifled the Bengals on the ground to the tune of only 57 rushing yards. Best of all, Cincinnati did not record a rushing play for over nine yards on their 22 carries!

After spending the 2012 campaign and most of the spring as an afterthought, Woods has definitely earned a spot in the Steelers’ defensive line rotation with his play this fall. With Hood and Keisel set to become UFAs after this season, the door is wide open for Woods to emerge as a long-term contributor in the trenches for Pittsburgh.

Granted, Woods might not become a long-term starter for Pittsburgh at defensive end or nose tackle. Yet there is always room for a versatile and heady contributor to help the Steelers along their defensive line. Guys like Chris Hoke, Travis Kirschke and Nick Eason have done the dirty work in those roles in recent seasons, and Woods could be primed to be the next in line to help Pittsburgh’s defense in that fashion.

As it stands, Woods has a tremendous window to shine for the Steelers during the final two weeks of the regular season. If he continues to play like he did last night, then more reps should be on the horizon for the fourth-year defensive lineman.

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