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Cowher says doctors told the Steelers in 1997 that Woodson only had one or two years left to play

(Photo by Damian Strohmeyer/Getty Images)

Former Steelers head coach and Hall of Famer Bill Cowher recently had a one-on-one interview with Ed Bouchette of The Athletic about his new memoir Heart and Steel, which came out this past Tuesday. Cowher discussed a myriad of topics that are in his book with Bouchette, but there was one story in regards to Hall of Fame defensive back Rod Woodson that I thought was noteworthy.

According to Bouchette, Cowher said the doctors told them that Woodson had only one or two years left to play because of a knee injury when they decided not to sign him in 1997. Of course, the doctors were way off in their prediction, as Woodson went on to play seven more years, made four more Pro Bowls and helped the Ravens win a Super Bowl in 2000.

In 1999, at the age of 34, Woodson made the switch from cornerback to free safety with the Ravens and he would stay at that position for the remainder of his career.

Woodson was also named first-team All-Pro with the Raiders in 2002 at the age of 37 and led the league in interceptions with eight, two of which were returned for touchdowns. In total, Woodson had 33 interceptions and returned seven of them for touchdowns after leaving the Steelers following the 1996 season.

Coupled with concerns about Woodson's knee injury, the Steelers were also going through a contract dispute with their seven-time Pro Bowl cornerback. After the 1996 season, the Steelers offered Woodson a five-year deal that included a $2 million signing bonus. However, he was unable to agree to the contract and he became an unrestricted free agent in 1997. On April 19, 1997, Woodson declined a four-year, $7 million contract offer from the Steelers hours before the 1997 NFL Draft and they went on to draft cornerback Chad Scott out of Maryland at 24th overall, which ended negotiations with Woodson.

Woodson ultimately signed with the 49ers on July 17, 1997, but he only lasted one year in San Francisco as they cut him in February of 1998 to free up salary-cap space.

The Steelers usually make the right decision when parting ways with players, but Woodson is certainly one that is regrettable.

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