While the Pittsburgh Steelers may have gained some tangible evidence of improvement, improving their win total by three games and hosting a playoff game as a division champion for the first time in four seasons, there is no doubt that the team is far from a finished product.
No team, of course, is a finished product in the offseason. Every team loses players to free agency and retirement, and replaces them through the same free agency process, as well as the draft.
With all of the change that occurs during the offseason, it’s often difficult to predict how a particular team might fare. They may wind up holding the Lombardi trophy or the first overall draft pick when all is said and done.
In order to gain a better feel for not only the issues facing the team this year, but how those issues might play out, it’s useful to take the devil’s advocate approach. This is the optimistic side of the coin.
Question: Will Jason Worilds perform at his highest level yet in 2015 if he is re-signed?
For the second straight offseason, the Steelers are facing the same question: how much is it worth to retain Jason Worilds? Last year, the answer was nearly $10 million, when the front office chose to slap him with the transition tag, which he gladly accepted.
It didn’t seem as though either party was very moved to get a long-term extension done last year, but I have a hard time seeing the Steelers place another tag on him this year, so I would be surprised if he’s back on anything but a long-term deal.
Let’s assume, however, that, either way, the team and the player and his agent found a way to get a deal done that puts him back on the field at left outside linebacker for the Steelers in 2015. Is he going to be a better player than he has been up to this point, in terms of production as well as consistency?
The argument could be made that, because the defense as a whole can be anticipated to be better—or so it’s hoped—Worilds should find that he has an easier time being successful.
Most notably, I believe the upgrade from Cam Thomas at left defensive end to Stephon Tuitt in his second season, with starting experience already under his belt, will greatly complement Worilds off the left side. His play in 2013 improved when Cameron Heyward was there on the left side, for example, versus when he was working with Ziggy Hood.
I also believe that Jarvis Jones will be playing the best football he has yet to play, regardless of how good that actually is, and with a more imposing threat on the opposite side, Worilds’ job should be made easier.
Moreover, as Kevin Colbert said today, Worilds did have a good season a year ago—maybe not a $10 million season—and, as much as most people don’t want to hear about a player who’s been in the league for five years, he is a player who still has some room to grow.
After all, 2014 was the first year of his career in which he was a full-time starter. And I expect that he may have greater success, and be put in more positions to win, with Keith Butler calling the defensive plays.