With the Steelers placing the franchise tag on LOLB LaMarr Woodley, they will likely retain one of their more important — and younger — defensive starters. Pittsburgh has apparently given Woodley the non-exclusive franchise tag, which allows another team to sign Woodley to an offer sheet and for the signing team to give the Steelers two first-round picks if they decline to match the offer. Woodley will be guaranteed a salary of 120 percent of his 2010 salary or the average of the top five LB salaries from 2010, whichever is greater.
Woodley, only 26, has quickly become one of the NFL's better outside linebackers playing in a "30" front, and he has been outstanding when the stakes are high, notching at least one sack in all seven career postseason appearances.
Woodley's expected return likely keeps second-year OLB Jason Worilds in a reserve role. Worilds, who turns 23 in March, notched a pair of sacks as a rookie. He also added 16 tackles (11 solo) on special teams, according to club statistics. The way we hear it, the Steelers are pleased with Worilds' pass-rush ability but would like to see him develop his all-around game, especially his run-defense skills. However, as a club observer notes, the Steelers' defense isn't exactly easy to pick up, and improvement could be in the offing. Note the marked progress DE Ziggy Hood made from Year One to Year Two in the Pittsburgh defense.