Head to Head: Dolphins RT Vernon Carey vs. Steelers LB LaMarr Woodley

A closer look at the game within the game

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LaMarr Woodley figured he didn't make the Pro Bowl last year because his sack production slipped late in the season after getting 91/2 in his first eight games.

This year, though, he has done the opposite, overcoming a slow start in which he didn't have a sack in seven of the first eight games to register 91/2 sacks in his past seven games. That surge has allowed him to surpass outside linebacker James Harrison, the NFL's 2008 defensive player of the year, for the team lead with 111/2.

Still, he didn't get selected to the AFC Pro Bowl team, even though the only other linebacker in the league with more sacks is Denver's Elvis Dumervil, who has 17.

"I thought it was definitely a possibility, coming on strong late in the season," Woodley said. "They say James Harrison and me are the best duo of outside linebackers. But half of the duo goes [to the Pro Bowl], but the other half seems to not get in there."

Harrison was selected to his third consecutive Pro Bowl since replacing Joey Porter as the starter at right outside linebacker in 2007. But Harrison's production has tailed off since early in the season, getting just two sacks in his past eight games and none in the past five.

His forced fumble in last Sunday's victory against the Ravens was his first in 10 games -- a surprising drought for a player who led the NFL with seven in 2008.

Woodley's performance against the Ravens was another indication of just how disruptive he has been: A team-high 10 tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble and forcing an interception.

"In some way, people try to find a way to take credit away from you, like whether it's, 'Oh, he's got James Harrison on the other side of him and James Harrison is drawing a lot of double teams and that's freeing up Woodley,'" Woodley said. "I guess they don't see when Woodley is getting double-teamed.

"I get chipped. I got double-teamed last game. But sometimes people don't notice that. They try to make it seem like you got an easy route over there. James is a good player. We work together. That's what makes us so good. I take pressure off him, he takes pressure off me. I guess they don't want to see us both in there in the Pro Bowl."

No linebacker tandem in the league has as many combined sacks as Woodley and Harrison (211/2). Not even Miami's duo of Porter and Jason Taylor, who are the top active sack tandem in the NFL (2181/2 career), has as many combined sacks (15) as the Steelers' duo.

Dolphins right tackle Vernon Carey, who has started 74 games in a row, the longest streak on their offensive line, has the task today of trying to slow Woodley.

"It's hard to say what it is sometimes," Woodley said about not making the Pro Bowl. "I think it's popularity votes. Guess I'm not popular. Maybe I got to get 20 sacks to get noticed around the league."

Gerry Dulac can be reached at gdulac@post-gazette.com . First Published January 3, 2010 5:00 AM


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