By Cian Fahey
Earlier this off-season, there was some talk on this site about Jason Worilds possibly moving from outside linebacker into the middle of the field. Nothing appears to have developed further on that end, although it is still ridiculously early to even contemplate what the Steelers will do for the beginning of this football year.
I was never on board with Worilds as an inside backer but I do believe the pressure should be cranked up on the youngster this year. The former Virginia Tech defensive end is entering his third season with the Steelers. He has notched five sacks and seven starts so far.
With James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley ahead of him, Worilds doesn\’t get many opportunities to prove his value on the field, but injuries did give us an insight into his development last year. Impressing a crowd that is used to the standards set by Woodley and Harrison is not easy and Worilds didn\’t do himself that many favors last year.
Worilds had three sacks for the season. Each sack came in a game that the Steelers comfortably won against the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns. Two of his sacks were coverage sacks while the other was a hail mary play when Colt McCoy\’s happy feet caused the sack as much as Worilds\’ pass rushing ability did.
Those instances do speak to his motor and determination to make plays on the field, but one must wonder why he didn\’t make a greater impact for the Steelers. That is not to say that he was a bad player, Worilds was good against the run and adequate when asked to drop into coverage.
He fit in well with the defense on the whole.
However, he was drafted in the second round because of his ability to impact football games. Worilds came out of college with 15 career sacks and 34 tackles for loss. On the field at the professional level however, Worilds was often swallowed up by offensive tackles.
It is obvious that he needs to develop better pass rushing skills and possibly add some bulk to properly compete in the trenches. Those are aspects of the game that can be learned from the Steelers\’ coaching staff.
Personally, I\’m not too worried about Worilds ability to develop as a pass rusher. He showed during last season that he has worked enough to fit comfortably into the Steelers\’ scheme. That is something that a guy like Bruce Davis never did in the past before he was released.
What does worry me about Worilds is his always lengthening injury list.
Last year he missed time for the Steelers before getting into the starting lineup, while he also entered camp this year with a possible broken thumb. Nothing is guaranteed for Worilds, he has to be healthy to prove himself as Harrison\’s successor.
This year is going to be key for him. In an ideal world, Worilds will force his way onto the field and make an impact as a situational pass rusher in specific packages while Harrison continues to play to an all-pro level.
Worilds needs to show that he can play that kind of Aldon Smith/Antwan Barnes role. He doesn\’t need to dominate to the same degree that those guys do but he does have to show more flashes. It would be difficult for the Steelers to go back to a Clark Haggans after playing with Harrison and Woodley for so long.
If Worilds is more of a Haggans than Woodley or Harrison, then the Steelers may be thinking linebacker early again in the draft next year.
you can follow Cian on Twitter at @Cianaf