Head to Head: Steelers WR Santonio Holmes vs. Packers CB Charles Woodson
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The name is the same, and so is the position. They even share the same defensive coordinator. Soon, they might have something else in common -- an NFL defensive player of the year award.
Cornerback Charles Woodson is tied for the National Football Conference lead with eight interceptions and is one of the reasons the Green Bay Packers are ranked No. 2 in total defense and No. 3 in pass defense in the NFL.
He reminds his defensive coordinator, Dom Capers, of another cornerback with the same last name -- Rod Woodson, who played for the Steelers from 1987-1996 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in August.
"He's the Rod Woodson of our defense," said Capers, who was the defensive coordinator for three of Woodson's seasons with the Steelers (1992-94). "They are very similar players. We would always have Rod cover the other team's top receiver and we have Charles do the same thing."
Today, that probably means he will shadow wide receiver Santonio Holmes, who, statistically, is the Steelers' second-leading receiver with 70 catches. But he leads the team in receiving yards (1,080) and is Ben Roethlisberger's favorite target when the Steelers need a big play.
In the past five games, Holmes has 34 catches for 490 yards and two touchdowns. He has been the intended receiver 54 times, or 33 percent of the 166 passes thrown by Roethlisberger and Dennis Dixon (against Baltimore), in those five games.
"He does it all, the way they use him," receiver Hines Ward said of Woodson, a 12-year veteran who has 44 career interceptions. "They play him inside, he gets sacks, picks, forced fumbles, pass breakups. And he's doing it week in and week out. He's a 12-year veteran who's still playing at a high level. That's what makes him special."
Said tight end Heath Miller: "He does everything but dispense the water on the sideline."
Woodson's career has been revitalized with the Packers. Since coming to Green Bay as an unrestricted free agent in 2006, he has 27 interceptions in 59 games. He had 17 interceptions in 106 games with the Oakland Raiders, his previous team.
Woodson, 33, has been having such a phenomenal season that he is being touted as a candidate for the NFL's defensive player of the year, an award won last season by Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison. Woodson has returned two of his eight interceptions for touchdowns and also has 15 passes defensed, four forced fumbles and two sacks.
"Rod was defensive player of the year in 1993," Capers said, referring to a season in which Woodson had eight interceptions, one for touchdown. "Charles has a chance to be that for us."
First Published December 20, 2009 12:00 am