By Teresa Varley
During the hot days of training camp when any rookie struggles with the adjustment to the NFL, a new playbook, and everything that comes with it, LaMarr Woodley did his part to help out his roommate and fellow linebacker Bruce Davis.
Woodley, in just his second season, understood what the rookie Davis was going through having been there himself just a year earlier. Woodley was a number two draft pick in 2007, making a switch from defensive end at Michigan to outside linebacker with the Steelers. Davis, the team's third round pick in 2008, was in the same shoes making the position switch as well.
So whenever he got the chance, Woodley was in Davis' ear. Sometimes it was on the way to the practice field, in the locker room, at dinner or in their room at night, Woodley stayed on Davis, encouraging and helping him.
"Playing the same position, making the same switch, I knew it was going to be tough for him," said Woodley. "I stayed on him and told him to get in his playbook. I told him I would help him, but I was still learning. I just wanted to see him get better because I know what type of player he can be and he can help us go out there and win football games."
At night, when a nap seemed to be the perfect thing, Woodley would ask Davis questions to see how well he knew the playoff. And Davis learned fast not to disappoint his new-found mentor.
"Wood wasn't going to let me be lazy or average," said Davis. "He was on me every day. On the way to practice, on the field, he was always like what are you doing, have you done anything today. Just like a big brother does, just like I do with my little brother when I go home, what are you doing, get on the ball. It was all that kind of stuff. It was the same thing."
As the season wore on, and Davis' playing time was limited to just seeing action on special teams in only five games while being inactive the rest of the season, Woodley didn't let up.
"He noticed that I was having a bit of a tough time with some stuff," said Davis. "Not playing wears on you. I was second guessing my talent and skills and he was there to tell me to keep working. He told me it's a process and it's ongoing. He was there to help me with everything mentally, whether it was learning the playbook or just keeping focused and not getting down on myself. It's a blessing to have him.
"I am a lot more comfortable now. I don't want to say I know everything just yet, but I am not second-guessing myself, am I doing the right thing. I can go out there and be comfortable and not think. I can just line up and do it."
Davis still might have to wait his turn, with Woodley and James Harrison as the team's starting outside linebackers, but that doesn't mean he can't make an impact in situational defenses or on special teams.
"Watching him he has a lot of speed, he is a good rusher," said Woodley. "That transition from playing defensive end to outside linebacker was a challenge for him. I know that because I did the same thing. He definitely has the ability to rush the passer. Once he fully understands playing outside linebacker he is going to be a great player.
"Watching him through college and here, I think this year he will be able to come in here and help us put pressure on the quarterback and our sack rate will go up."