The late 1980s and early ’90s saw a Pittsburgh Steelers franchise struggling through mediocrity. The Steelers fell to also-rans after QB Terry Bradshaw retired. The memory of back-to-back Super Bowl wins faded under 5 and 6-win seasons.
After a 6-win 1986 campaign, the Steelers held the #10 pick in the 1987 NFL Draft. Tampa Bay, holder of the #1 pick, signed Miami QB Vinny Testaverde prior to the draft. The Indianapolis Colts, likewise, announced Alabama LB Cornelius Bennett at #2.
The question heading into Draft Day was who would get Rod Woodson at #3? Woodson was a blazing fast defensive back/kick returner/running back from Purdue, with tenacity and power to match his footspeed. Chatter indicated San Francisco, Houston and Minnesota (among others) desperately wanted to trade into Buffalo’s #3 slot to nab Woodson1.
True to their word, the Houston Oilers traded the #8 and #36 picks to the Bills. With the #3 pick, Houston took… Miami RB Alonzo Highsmith2. Two picks later, the Cleveland Browns traded up from #24 to select…Duke Linebacker Mike Junkin3. The Cardinals4, Lions, Bills and Eagles also passed on Woodson. Allegations of Woodson’s receiving improper benefits while in college and “character questions” saw Rod fall into the Pittsburgh Steelers’ laps at #10.5
His tenure with the team started on rocky footing. Perhaps irked he’d fallen to #10, Woodson refused to sign Pittsburgh’s contract. He butted heads with legendary Pittsburgh coach Chuck Knoll. Woodson went so far as to attempt a Track and Field career, despite not running track in college. In a qualifying race for the European Track and Field Grand Prix, however, Woodson clipped a hurdle and failed to make the circuit6. He eventually signed the Steelers’ offer of four years at $700k a year.
To say it worked out well for both parties would be a massive understatement.
The big stat here is Woodson’s 75 Maximum Speed. Rod Woodson ran a 4.28 40-yard dash at the 1897 NFL Combine. A sub 4.3 40 is ridiculously fast, and Woodson’s 4.28 puts him in the top 40 all time. Make no mistake; it was Woodson’s raw technique, not his footspeed which foiled his attempt at professional Track and Field. No one doubted Rod Woodson possessed world-class speed. It should be no surprise that Woodson is Tecmo Super Bowl’s fastest defensive back7.
The critics who labelled Woodson an athletic freak without DB skill quickly ate their words. In just his third game, Woodson nabbed his first interception, a pick six, against the Cincinnati Bengals. In 1988, his first full season as Pittsburgh’s starting Right Cornerback, Woodson snagged 4 INTs. His 63 in Pass Interceptions score places him head and shoulders above his TSB peers.
The stat that really makes Rod Woodson dangerous on any given TSB play is his 69 Hitting Power. Only David Fulcher’s 75 ranks higher among defensive backs. Rod Woodson quickly garnered a reputation as a runaway train in the backfield, flattening any WR or RB unfortunate enough to get in his path.
Houston RB Lorenzo White’s severe TSB fumbleitis is partly owed to a Rod Woodson trucking. The Steelers played the favored Houston Oilers to a tie during the 1989 AFC Wild Card game. During the Oilers’ first possession of overtime, Woodson blasted Lorenzo White, jarring loose the football. Woodson recovered his own fumble and the Steelers upset the Oilers mere seconds later. White followed his ‘89 failure with 7 fumbles in 1990 and earned a 19 Ball Control score, worst in Tecmo Super Bowl.
The amazing thing to consider about Tecmo Super Bowl is that Rod Woodson should have been even better. From his rookie campaign until tearing his ACL in 19958, Rod Woodson pulled double duty, acting both as DB and punt/kick returner. Rod Woodson should be the Tecmo Steelers’ return specialist as well, allowing TSB players to swap Woodson into Pittsburgh’s pitiful offense.
Put Rod Woodson on the Steelers’ offense and Pittsburgh becomes a very dangerous TSB team. Bubby Brister would be halfway decent throwing lobs to Woodson. Of course, this would have required TSB programmers to either a)write specific code to give Woodson both offensive and defensive stats, or b)create two TSB Rod Woodsons, one on offense and one on defense. And we all know the sheer power of two Rod Woodsons would create a space-time singularity, the power of which could suck Earth into an n-dimensional spacewarp of nothingness and desolation.
Rod Woodson is one of the NFL’s all-time greats. Tecmo Super Bowl presents a snapshot of a shooting star, a lethal DB with enough speed and power to give any offense headaches.
1 “Vikes seek deal to get Woodson.” Hartman, Sid. Minneapolis Star and Tribune, 28 Apr 1987: 02D.
2 Good god, can you IMAGINE the Tecmo Oilers had they Nabbed Woodson at #3? Unstoppable.
3 Cleveland traded with the San Diego Chargers, who, according to the April 25th San Diego Union newspaper, didn’t think Woodson “had the skill” to play NFL secondary. Junkin, on the other hand, started only 11 games for Cleveland and was out of the league by 1990.
4 The Cardinals drafted QB Kelly Stouffer, who refused to sign with the team. So many swings and misses in the early picks of the ‘87 Draft.
5 The Steelers also landed All-Pro LBs Hardy Nickerson and Greg Lloyd with the 122nd and 150th picks, as well as RB Merrill Hodge at 261. Woodson, Nickerson and Lloyd all in one draft? Talk about reloading a defense.
6 “Woodson’s Track Loss May Be Steelers’ Gain.” Harvey, Randy. Los Angeles Times, 26 June 1987: D1.
7 Wayne Haddix, Deion Sanders and Washington’s Darrell Green all share Woodson’s 75 MS.
8 Woodson tore his ACL in week 1 while tackling Detroit’s Barry Sanders, and became the first man in NFL history to have reconstructive surgery and return in the same season, playing in the Steelers’ Super Bowl loss to the Cowboys.