Rod Woodson began his 10 years with the Pittsburgh Steelers with a contract holdout and ended it in a contract dispute. The time in between, though, was something to remember.

The meat of Rod Woodson’s career with the Steelers was amazing. His entry and exit were rocky.

It was all good at first when Woodson arrived in Pittsburgh as a rookie No. 10 overall draft pick in 1987. Steelers owner Art Rooney, who would die a year later, was still active.

“The day I came in after getting drafted, Art picked me up with his wife, and it was my mother and father,” Woodson said. “We went up to Mount Washington, a little place, and had dinner. The first thing he said was, ‘Welcome to the family.’

There was a bit of a family squabble, though, when Woodson missed the first eight games of his rookie year as a holdout.

The memory faded as Woodson developed into a perennial All-Pro but resurfaced in 1997, when his contract was up, and the Steelers opted not to make what he deemed a fair contract offer.

Woodson left for San Francisco amid some hard feelings, but he kept a home in suburban Wexford, Pa. After a year with the 49ers, he spent four years with the Ravens. Throughout that time, his family stayed in Wexford. On Tuesdays, the off day during the season, he would fly home, then fly back to Baltimore the next day.

In 2003, it was the Ravens who didn’t want to pay him. Nothing came of it, but Woodson thought of returning to Pittsburgh.

Before Woodson signed with the Raiders, Steelers Head Coach Bill Cowher told Pittsburgh writers:

“Rod is the ultimate pro — the best that I’ve ever been around. When he leaves the game, I will breathe a deep sigh of relief because we won’t be playing against him.”

Five months later, Woodson helped the Raiders win, 30-17, at Pittsburgh early in what became a Super Bowl season.

Canton Repository