With the Pittsburgh Steelers coming off their bye week and little to talk about in the interim outside of returning players, now would be as good a time as any to take a look back on what’s transpired this season and give out some mid-year player evaluations.
The team as a whole has suffered its ups and downs throughout the season, particularly the bi-polar offense that prefers the comforts of home. Even with all the road struggles, however, the Steelers are ranked seventh in the league in scoring, averaging 26.2 points per game.
On the flip side, the defense has struggled not only with youth and inexperience but also with injuries, en route to posting the 19th-best defense in points allowed, giving up 23.9 points per game, with hopes to start changing that down the home stretch.
Player: Jason Worilds, LOLB
While he has had his spurts here and there this season, I think it’s safe to say that fifth-year outside linebacker Jason Worilds has never fully rediscovered the form that he suddenly stumbled into about midway through the 2013 season.
He parlayed that big showing in the second half of last year into a transition tag worth nearly $10 million, but it’s difficult to argue that the Steelers have gotten their money’s worth on that deal. It’s hard to imagine he’ll command such a salary on the open market next year.
Worilds led the team with eight sacks a year ago, most of which came during that second half of the season. He currently has three and a half, but his overall pressure hasn’t been nearly as consistent. He put together a few promising starts as a pass rusher during the middle parts of this season, but his performance has waned since then.
More disappointing, to me personally at least, has been watching him regress as a run defender. I watched him make significant strides in playing the run as the season wore on a year ago, to the point that it became a valuable tool in his arsenal.
That simply hasn’t been the case this year, barring perhaps the Texans game, in which he forced a fumble near the visiting team’s own goal line late in the first half. Beyond that, his work against the run hasn’t peaked much far beyond pedestrian.
While he did record an interception, and is the only linebacker on the team this year with one, Worilds has not impressed in coverage either. He drops back and can easily get lost and fall out of position, which opens up holes in the zone.
At the end of the day, Worilds has not come near living up to the potential that he teased at in the second half of the previous season. The Steelers took a gamble and banked on the position change and a light finally coming on being representative of future performance, but what they’ve gotten in return has been fairly pedestrian, and could largely be had with a cheaper price tag.