While Santonio Holmes walked away with a well deserved Super Bowl MVP (although very strong arguments could also be made for Ben Roethlisberger and James Harrison), the Steelers' overall MVP during their playoff run that culminated in the Super Bowl win may have been a player not very well known outside of Steelers Nation...second year outside lineback LaMarr Woodley. I wouldn't be surprised if Joe Flacco, Phillip Rivers, and Kurt Warner are still have nightmares of Woodley hurtling towards them.
In all three of the Steelers' playoff games, Woodley notched two sacks. That continues a run that started in their playoff loss to Jacksonville last year in which he also recorded two sacks. I'd be surpised if his 2 sack average per playoff game this year isn't some kind of playoff NFL record. In addition to the sacks, he was an all around disruptive force, chasing quarterbacks all over the field and forcing offensive lineman to grab him to slow him down.
The emergence of Woodley has caused major match-up challenges for offensive lines. Do they provide additional protection to slow down defensive MVP James Harrison? And if they do that, how do they contain Woodley? NFL offensive coordinators have to earn their pay when they face the Steelers.
Woodley seemed to be wearing down during the end part of the regular season when his sack numbers dropped off. He may be still adjusting to the much longer and more grueling NFL season. But, he stepped up huge in the playoffs. If he improves even moderately going into next season, he is set to break into the upper echelon of NFL linebackers. With the explosive Lawrence Timmons likely to step in for the very dependable Larry Foote, the Steelers pass rush could be downright scary next season.
I was dumbfounded when the Steelers drafted Woodley. At the time, the pick seemed to make absolutely no sense. That had major issues on the offensive line and seemed to have a much stronger linebacker corps. They spent their first two picks on what seemed like one of their strongest positions. But, they struck Steelers' gold on this one. I guess that's why the Steelers brass gets paid the big bucks and I get to yell at the television when I disagree with a draft choice. I can hardly wait until next season starts to see how Woodley fares in his third season.