Position flexibility. It's something that is talked about constantly in football. And while it can sound a bit cliché, it's a way of life if you are going to make it as a backup in today's NFL.
With roster spots at a premium, more and more players need to show they are capable of being able to step in not just at one position, but most times two or even three spots.
Al Woods understands that. He worked at nose tackle and defensive end throughout camp, playing left end in the Steelers preseason loss to the Giants. When the team returned to practice at St. Vincent College on Monday, it was back to nose tackle for him.
"He is a big-body guy that is performing well, and we want him to add value to his cause and ours by showing position flexibility," said Coach Mike Tomlin.
Woods knows where he plays could keep changing. He doesn't mind not having a defined position right now. As a matter of fact, he embraces it.
"I am whatever they tell me to play," said Woods. "I am going to do it 100 miles an hour and hope for the best."
Woods started off strong with a team-high nine tackles, two for a loss, and a sack against the Giants.
"It was nice, but I have some things to work on," said Woods. "I just have to keep getting better every day. I have to play better technique and try to play it to the best of my ability.
"I wanted to go out there and do what I could for my team and just be in my gap at the time I was supposed to be there. I think that's what I did. I went out there and played for the guy next to me and tried to not let them down. I wanted to go out there and play with my heart, passion and do what I need to do."
That passion has been growing since Woods came into the league as the New Orleans Saints fourth-round draft pick in 2010. He was waived before the start of the regular season, and signed to the Steelers practice squad within days. The team liked the potential they saw in him, but lost him when he was signed off the practice squad by Tampa Bay the same season. The Bucs released Woods at the start of the 2011 season, and he was signed by Seattle the next day. Seattle waived him in November, 2011, and the Steelers pounced, claiming him off waivers.
Woods saw action in 12 games last season, on special teams and on the defensive line, recording one tackle. He is hoping this is the year that he is able to make an impact on the defense, and knows he has to be ready to step in at a moment's notice if one of the starters goes down.
"When they call my number, I want to be ready," said Woods. "If Coach (John) Mitchell tells me to go into the game I don't want it to be a drop off from Brett (Keisel), Ziggy (Hood) or Steve (McLendon). I just want to be the guy when coach calls my name there is no drop off.
"I want to be where the guys in front of me are. I want to keep pushing so I can close the gap so I can be just as good as Brett, Ziggy and Steve. Every day I have a question for one of them, how they see things, and try to get in their heads as much as possible. The more I can learn from them, the better."