Has LaMarr Woodley played his last game with the Steelers?
Woodley was placed on injured reserve today by the team, ending his 2013 season with two games left. Woodley injured his calf in the first quarter against the Bengals and did not return. It was his second game back after missing three games because of a left-calf injury.
Woodley is scheduled to count nearly $13.6 million against the salary cap in 2014, but he has appeared in just 25 games with nine sacks in the past 2 ½ seasons. He does not have a multiple-sack game since Oct. 30, 2011, when he injured his hamstring against the New England Patriots. Prior to that injury, he had 16 games with more than one sack.
When Woodley returned from his initial calf injury, he was moved to right outside linebacker because of how well Jason Worilds was playing on the left side. That might have been the first indication of what the Steelers plan to do with Woodley next season.
“In recent years he has had to battle some injuries, unfortunately for him and for us,” Tomlin said.
They signed another linebacker to take his place on the 53-man roster, Jamaal Westerman, a five-year veteran cut by the Buffalo Bills Dec. 10. Westerman, who played at Rutgers, also played in the NFL with Arizona, Indianapolis and the New York Jets, who signed him as an undrafted rookie in 2009.
He has played in 57 games with three career starts.
Tomlin said defensive end Brett Keisel, who has played just seven snaps in the past five games because of plantar fasciitis in his foot, is expected to play against the Packers.
“He may even participate [in practice Wednesday] and definitely on Thursday,” Tomlin said.
The Steelers have won four of their past six games and are 6-4 since their 0-4 start to the regular season. They are coming off a 30-20 victory against the division-leading Cincinnati Bengals in which Tomlin cited all three areas for big plays – offense, defense and special teams.
However, they will be eliminated from postseason contention with one more loss or a victory by the Baltimore Ravens or Miami Dolphins.
“You like to have a team whose arrow is pointing up this time of year,” Tomlin said. “More important than our performance [against the Bengals], I like the things that set up the performance, particularly in practice. I thought they displayed the mental toughness with preparation and it paid off with their play.”
Also, Tomlin did not exonerate linebacker Terence Garvin for a block on Bengals punter Kevin Huber that fractured Huber’s jaw and vertebrae. Garvin was not penalized on the play that resulted in Antonio Brown’s 67-yard punt return for touchdown, but could be fined by the National Football League.
“It’s not what we’re looking for and not what we want,” Tomlin said, adding that Garvin properly executed a block but not for that situation. “But the play happened pretty quickly.”
Gerry Dulac: firstname.lastname@example.org; twitter: @gerrydulac