The Pittsburgh Steelers, who have the earliest report date in the league, took a major step on Wednesday evening toward having all of their draft picks in training camp on time, reaching a contract agreement with second-round linebacker LaMarr Woodley.
A former University of Michigan star, and the 46th player taken overall, Woodley will sign a four-year contract, the financial details of which were not immediately available.
The accord with Woodley is key because, like first-round linebacker Lawrence Timmons, he is expected to garner significant playing time as a rookie. The Steelers released former Pro Bowl linebacker Joey Porter this spring and, for the first time in franchise history, used their first two draft choices on linebackers.
Porter subsequently signed with the Miami Dolphins.
A hybrid-type defender in college, and a relentless pass rusher, Woodley figures to be an excellent fit in the Pittsburgh 3-4 front, where the outside linebackers typically move up and play defensive end on passing downs. The Pittsburgh coaches, some of whom presided over the transition of former college defensive ends to linebackers in the Pittsburgh system, said this spring that Woodley has made a solid conversion to the new position.
Woodley, 22, is probably a bit shorter than some teams would like, but at 6-feet-1 ½, 266 pounds, he possesses great explosiveness, closing speed and pass-rush instincts. He did not perform at the scouting combine, but at his pro day on campus, was clocked at 4.74 seconds in the 40-yard dash and posted a 38½-inch vertical jump. He also demonstrated strength, as he had 29 repetitions in the standard 225-pound bench press.
A three-year starter for the Wolverines, he finished his career with 177 tackles, including 50½ tackled for losses, 25 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, five recoveries and five passes defensed, in 49 games, with 33 starts. Woodley notched 12 sacks in 2006.
Pittsburgh has now reached agreements with five of its eight choices in the draft and appears to be making very good progress in the negotiations with Timmons. Agent Drew Rosenhaus said that, while a deal is not imminent, he is optimistic that the former Florida State standout will be in camp on time. The 15th player chosen overall, Timmons missed much of the spring workouts with an injury.
The Steelers are scheduled to report to training camp on Monday, and the initial practice under first-year coach Mike Tomlin is set for Tuesday morning.
Woodley is the first player chosen in the second round to come to contract terms leaguewide. While the rookie signings have continued as a brisk pace, only two first-round picks and 16 players chosen in the third round have completed deals.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.