PITTSBURGH - The Pittsburgh Steelers released linebacker LaMarr Woodley on Tuesday, with a post-June 1 designation to save money under the salary cap.
By postponing the move until after June 1, the Steelers free up about $8 million in salary cap space in 2014. The money saved will likely go toward signing the team's selections in the NFL draft in May.
Woodley will, however, count $8.5 million against the team's cap number in 2015.
Selected by the Steelers in the second round (46th overall) of the 2007 draft out of Michigan, Woodley signed a six-year, $61.5 million contract in 2011, but has struggled to remain healthy. He missed at least three games in each of the last three seasons as hamstring and other lower body issues kept him sidelined for long stretches.
The turning point came in a 25-17 win over New England on Oct. 30, 2011. Woodley sacked Tom Brady twice in that game but also left with a strained hamstring. He had nine sacks at the time of the injury, played in two games the rest of the way and could never seem to rediscover the productivity that made Woodley and James Harrison one of the most feared outside linebacker combinations in the league.
Woodley, 29, failed to get a sack after Oct. 20 last year and ended the season on injured reserve. While Woodley sat with calf problems, Jason Worilds thrived. He led Pittsburgh with eight sacks and the Steelers made the fifth-year linebacker their transition player.
Woodley started 81 of 94 games during the regular season as well as seven of eight postseason games in his seven years with Pittsburgh. He made the Pro Bowl and selected second-team All-Pro by The Associated Press in 2009.
In addition to the Woodley move becoming official, the Steelers appear to have signed longtime safety Ryan Clark's replacement by reaching a first-day deal Tuesday with Mike Mitchell, according to Mitchell himself.
Mitchell, formerly of the Carolina Panthers, announced the contract agreement on Twitter. The Steelers said only that no contract has yet been signed.
“Pittsburgh!!!!!!” Mitchell said in a tweet. “First I have to thank God for this blessing and Mr. Rooney and the Steelers organization for such a good opportunity.”
Clark, a free agent who is leaving the Steelers after eight seasons, reacted to the news by tweeting, “It is what it is.”
Mitchell, a surprising second-round pick by the Oakland Raiders in 2009, had a strong season with the Panthers in 2013. He had 66 tackles, four interceptions, 3 ½ sacks, two forced fumbles and eight passes defended. For his career, he has seven sacks and six interceptions.
Mitchell, who is 6-foot and 210 pounds, played at Ohio University.
The Steelers freed up enough cap room to sign Mitchell, in part, when Polamalu agreed to convert much of his previously negotiated salary -- $4.5 million -- into a signing bonus.
The Associated Press and Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE contributed to this report.
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