Understanding Jason Worilds Sudden Retirement

Jason Worilds sudden retirement shocked everyone in Steelers Nation, if not the entire NFL. Here was a young man, a second round draft pick out of Virginia, who cut his teeth in the league playing behind James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley and being the guy that the passed on Sean Lee to take.

  • Between injuries and the pedigree he was playing against, he struggled under the rader for 3 seasons.

Finally, in 2013 he sized a starting role in his on right and never looked back, sacking quarterbacks with reckless abandon. The Steelers weren’t quite sure what to make of him, and slapped the transition tag on Worilds, keeping him off the free market.

  • Not that the move hurt Worilds much financially, he pocked a check for just below 10 million dollars.

Then he went out and played his first full season as starter. He hardly missed a down. He tied with Cameron Heyward as the Steelers sack leader. In market that puts a premuium on pass rushers, Worilds looked set to cash in.

  • Except he didn’t, and instead chose to walk away from it all.

Several reports out of Pittsburgh say that Worilds religious faith drove his decision. So be it. Its his choice and if it’s what he thinks is right, he should be commended, as Dan Gigler of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette observed.

But Jason Worilds sudden retirement isn’t the first and will not likely be the last, and there’s a simple reason for it that has nothing to do with increased concern about head trauma, CTE or tau proteins….

At the end of the day, Football is about “The Want It.”

Steelers Nation has Seen This Before

Jason Worilds is actually trodding a path that is well worn by former Pittsburgh Steelers, a tendency that began long before the current concern about concussions came to fore.

For example, David Woodley went 4-2 in six starts in 1985 and then mysteriously retired.

In 1992 Bill Cowher’s Steelers approached the first playoff game at Three Rivers Stadium in over a decade, Barry Foster infamously threatened to hold out the entire 1993 season for more money.

The Steelers gave it to him in 1993, but then Foster’s attitude problems forced them to trade him for a song to Carolina after the 1994 season. Carolina cut Foster, who later signed with the Bengals. But after his first practice in Cincinnati walked up to David Shula, handed him his bonus check and said his heart wasn’t it in.

Rashard Menendhall played a season for Bruce Arians in Pittsburgh West aka the Arizona Cardinals, and then hung it up rather than seek another payday.

The lesson then is the same is it is now:

  • Football is about having “The Want It.”

Yes, you need athletic talent. Yes you need football skills (see the track stars that have tried and failed). Yes you need commitment and dedication (see Troy Edwards “I can’t race air” comment – how long did he last?)

  • Those elements are all necessary to in football, but even taken together they’re insufficient for success.

There’s a reason why Chuck Noll held 6 week training camps and actively campaigned to see the preseason returned to its original 6 game length. This was necessary, he explained during one of his final training camps, to get both the mind conditioned to use the body as a projectile.

  • Using your body as a projectile is an inherently unnatural act.

Yet it’s been a fundamental part of football, long before shoulder tackles and “kill hits” came into vogue. This means that something, other than money, has got to fuel your desire to play football. And that’s why the best football games often come down to tests of will – who wants it more.

Steelers had lost, and were on the ropes. John Harbaugh sought to establish, in the words of Behind the Steel Curtain editor Neal Coolong, “Who is the bitch in this relationship” by ordering 5 straight running plays.

  • The Steelers won no moral victories on holding Baltimore off, but they did send a clear signal – they wanted it.

When Rashard Mendenhall retired, Steel Curtain Rising observed that his sudden retirement potentially explained a lot about his erratic performance – benched one week by Mike Tomlin for being “off the details,” only to start the following week vs. San Diego and gain over 150 yards.

  • Jason Worilds sudden retirement likely offers no such insights.

Worild’s focus and effort were never at issue. What held him back where likely lack of opportunity, injury, and having good but not great talent. But he’s reached a point in his life when he’s realized he has other things he wishes to do.

In other words, Worilds lacks “The Want It.” If that’s the case retirement is the right decision, and Steel Curtain Rising wishes Jason Worilds only the best.

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