What in the world will the Steelers do about free agent Jason Worilds?
For the second time in as many years both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Steelers Nation find themselves grappling with the same question. Steel Curtain Rising’s Steelers Free Agent Focus 2015 review the situation a look.
Capsule Profile of Jason Worilds with the Steelers
The Steelers drafted Jason Worilds in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft. With number 92 pushing age 32 at the time, it’s no secret that the Steelers passed on Sean Lee and picked Jason Worilds with an eye towards replacing James Harrison.
- Some things just don’t work out as planned.
Jason Worilds did end up replacing one of the Steelers incumbent linebackers, but it wasn’t Harrison, it was LaMarr Woodley. However, Worilds did anything but travel in a straight line to accomplish that feat.
As a rookie, Jason Worilds saw spot duty, registered two sacks, defensed a pass, and had a fumble recovery. He also played well on special teams.
- Worilds had the look of an up and comer.
Still, the Steelers neither wanted nor expected Worilds to get much playing time in 2011. Reality altered their plans, as James Harrison’s orbital bone fracture and LaMarr Woodley’s hamstring injury forced Worilds into the line up.
- In 7 starts Worilds could only manage 3 sacks, and forced one fumble. Steelers Nation worried they had a bust on their hands….
In 2012, Worilds was hampered by a wrist injury and could only start 3 games, despite both Woodley and Harrison missing time. Nonetheless, Worilds put up 5 sacks, which while hardly an astronomical number, left him a third on the team. Worilds started in 2013, but gave way to Jarvis Jones until reclaiming the starting job vs. Baltimore.
It wasn’t until LaMarr Woodley got injured (again), that Worilds came into his own, as he recorded 7 sacks over the season’s final 9 games, playing so well that the Steelers made no bones about the fact Worilds would replace LaMarr Woodley at left outside linebacker.
In 2014 Worilds status as a starter never went into doubt. He didn’t match his sack total of 2014 coming in a half sack shy of his 2014 total, but he did record a 20 yard interception vs. the Ravens at Heinz Field, forced 1 fumble and recovered two more.
The Case for Keeping Jason Worilds
To say that the Steelers are thin at outside linebacker would be an understatement. Jarvis Jones is the only player under contract, and one that Greg Lloyd has publically called out. After that, the Steelers have no one else, other than injured reserve player Jordan Zumwalt. Worilds sack total might scare some away, but he spent less time rushing the passer than in past seasons.
The Steelers have invested heavily in Worild’s development, and while Worild’s play might not conjure up visions of Joey Porter, Lloyd, James Harrison, or Kevin Greene, he’s clearly the best the team has. Signing him makes sense.
The Case Against Keeping Jason Worilds
Jason Worilds has shown he’s a good outside linebackers. But the success of the Steelers defense doesn’t depend on good outside linebackers, it depends on great ones. In two seasons as a starter, Worilds hasn’t sniffed double digit sacks.
- For all of his solid play, Worilds has never flashed the inate playmaking ability of Steelers outside linebacking legends.
And then there’s the issue of money.
The Steelers tried to lock down Worilds to a long term deal in this time last year. When the two sides couldn’t reach an agreement, the Steelers placed the transition tag on Worilds. Worilds could have used it to leverage a better deal with another team, but declined, signing it immediately.
This shows that Worilds and the Steelers have some very different views on what his value to the team is. The Steelers can’t and won’t get into a bidding war over his services, and perhaps would best be served by focusing their efforts elsewhere.
Curtain’s Call on Steelers and Jason Worilds
The simple money says the Steelers should sign Worilds to a handsome, but not block busting deal, locking him down for what promises to be the most productive years.
But word is that the Steelers won’t be able to do that, and don’t appear likely to use the transition or franchise tags.
- If all three of those things are true, then Worilds is a goner.
How likely is that to happen? When Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette asked Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert about Worilds during the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Colbert made the Steelers position crystal clear:
He understands that if he doesn’t get tagged, which we could still do, he will explore the market and see what is out there. We will stay in communication. Maybe he comes back. Maybe he moves on. But he’s been a good player for us and we would love to have him back if it all fits.
Translation: The Steelers want Worilds back, but they’ve already decided how much they’re going to pay him and have no plans to budge.
While the Steelers salary cap situation is better than it has been for several seasons, there are plenty of teams with excess space which translates into no shortages of teams willing to over pay for the services of a commodity of a proven 3-4 outside linebacker.
Hopefully the Steelers will reach an agreement with Worilds. If not Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin had better be able to pull rabbits out of a hat, (or else the talk of shifting to a 4-3 could get real in a hurry.)