Steelers sign Woodley to 6-year deal

LaMarr Woodley didn’t groan when the Pittsburgh Steelers slapped

him with a franchise tag.

He didn’t panic, either. His goal was always to remain with the

defending AFC champions, and the news of the contract that will

keep him in black-and-gold was so good he couldn’t keep it to

himself.

Rather than get some extra rest entering the second week of

training camp, Woodley took to Twitter around 6 a.m. Friday morning

to break the news about his six-year, $61.5 million deal.

”I set my alarm and I decided I was going to tweet this first

thing in the morning,” Woodley said. ”That was the whole thing –

breaking the story first.”

Figures. It’s Woodley’s way to be in a rush.

The deal makes the Pro Bowler one of the highest paid players at

his position in the league while also providing the team with a

little salary cap relief.

The Steelers were $10 million over the $120.4 million salary cap

when camp began, a figure that included the one-year, $10 million

contract tendered to Woodley by the team in February when the

Steelers designated him with the franchise tag.

The new deal is front-loaded with bonus money, helping

Pittsburgh to get some breathing room under the cap.

The 26-year-old was only too happy to move the numbers around to

make the contract cap-friendly. All that really mattered was the

opportunity to stay in Pittsburgh.

”That’s something I wanted to happen when I first came in the

door and saw the great linebackers who had come through here,”

Woodley said. ”I wanted to be a part of that great tradition and

history around here, but to do that I had to be around here.

Definitely I have my opportunity to leave my stamp when I’m done

playing here.”

Woodley has developed into one of the NFL’s top young

linebackers since the former Michigan star was chosen by the

Steelers in the second round of the 2007 draft.

He’s recorded at least 10 sacks in each of the last three years,

including 13 1/2 in 2009 to rank third in the league.

Woodley, fellow linebacker Lawrence Timmons and defensive

linemen Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward are considered the key core

players on a still talented but aging defense. Eight starters will

be at least 30 years old when the season begins Sept. 11, and

Woodley understands his contract means he needs to take on a

leadership role.

That’s fine by him. He knows his big payday comes with big

expectations. He’s hoping to exceed them.

”People are going to expect a lot out of you because of the

money you signed for, but you should expect a lot of yourself

anyway, regardless of the money you sign for,” he said. ”I’m a

competitive person, and if I didn’t sign that contract I’d still go

out and give my all. Last year, I didn’t have a (long-term)

contract but I still went out and gave my all because that’s the

kind of person I am.”

The signing gives the linebacker position some continuity as

longtime stars like James Harrison and James Farrior enter the

twilight of their careers. The team is also expected to approach

the 25-year-old Timmons in the near future about a contract

extension.

Woodley’s massive payday didn’t go unnoticed by his teammates.

They jumped on him the second he sat down to eat breakfast.

”Somebody asked me if I was going to buy an island,” he said.

”Am I going to buy a yacht? All kinds of jokes. Dinner on me.

Everything. They want me to get rid of my old Buick Roadmaster car

I got. I can’t get rid of that.”