The Pittsburgh Steelers won a nail biter against the arch-rival Baltimore Ravens Sunday afternoon by a score of 20-19 off a failed two-point conversation attempt by Baltimore with only 12 seconds left in regulation. T.J. Watt was the headliner on defense, but DL Chris Wormley likely had his best game as a professional against his former team. Wormley played 55 snaps (74%) and ended the night with five total stops (three solo), two TFLs, three QB hits, and 2.5 sacks on QB #8 Lamar Jackson. Alex Kozora of Steelers Depot highlighted the bad blood with Wormley’s transition to Pittsburgh from Baltimore in a rare in-division trade. Trades like this hardly happen, and HC Mike Tomlin made sure to use this to motivate Wormley:
Wormley did just that, having the game of his life where Pittsburgh managed to sack Jackson seven times on the night, rattling him in the pocket as a passer while also limiting his impact as a runner on the ground. Wormley has had to step up into a prominent role with Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu missing most of the season, and he has steadily improved each week next to All-Pro Cam Heyward. Watch Wormley’s fist sack of the afternoon as he attacks the outside shoulder of #70 Kevin Zeitler, locating Jackson attempting to escape the pocket and wraps him up by the torso and drags him down for the sack.
Wormley’s second sack comes against RT #65 Patrick Mekari as the 4-tech, getting hands on the blocker’s chest on the snap of the ball with his eyes in the backfield to make sure Jackson keeps it on the play action. Wormley then uses the swim move over Mekari’s shoulder and keeps his balance as Mekari tries to kick him out, rounding the corner in the pocket to get Jackson from behind for the takedown and loss of yardage.
Wormley’s last sack comes on a great effort play where his initial rush is stalled, but his commits to continued pursuit of Jackson and eventually runs him down to finish the play. Watch as Wormley rushes inside on Zeitler but gets passed onto C #77 Bradley Bozeman as #57 Montravius Adams crashes into the RG. Wormley attempts to go inside, but sees Jackson running out toward the right, countering back to the outside shoulder of Bozeman and flattens the corner as Jackson attempts to escape up the middle, wrapping up his legs at #90 T.J. Watt comes from behind to clean up the play.
Wormley played with a great motor not only as a pass rusher Sunday, but also as a run defender. Baltimore totaled 107 rushing yards for the game, substantially less than they had all season and far less than what Pittsburgh had been allowing in their last three games played. Part of that came from the effort of pursuit by the defensive line, including Wormley. Watch this run stop where Wormley keeps his hips and shoulders square to the LOS as the pulling guard works across the line, giving him a quick shove out of the way and shoots through #33 Devonta Freeman as he approaches the LOS for the stuff.
Here is another great example of Wormley’s effort in pursuit of Freeman on the pitch to the right sideline, getting off his block and takes a great angle to the football to cut off Freeman from getting outside, escorting him out of bounds for minimal gain.
Wormley appears to be playing faster than earlier this season, both from a physical standpoint as well as a mental processing standpoint. You can see that ability to read and react on this play as Wormley attempts to crash inside against the LT and LG, taking up two blockers as Jackson fakes the give to Freeman and runs the option to the right. Wormley gets his eyes on Jackson and disengages the block, running down Jackson as he cuts back up the middle for the takedown.
We see a similar display of heady play from Wormley as he works laterally off the snap from head-up on the center to the B-gap between the RG and RT, taking on the block but rips off Mekari as Freeman gets to the outside, shoving #72 Ben Powers out of the way to make the play on Freeman in pursuit.
Chris Wormley is in the midst of his best season to date in the league, having started 11 of 12 games played, registering 37 total tackles (21 solo), four TFLs, six QB hits, five sacks, two PBUs, and one forced fumble via Pro Football Reference. I was critical of Pittsburgh re-signing Wormley this offseason given their cap situation and the number of other needs on the roster at the time but given the absence of the projected starters and the inconsistent play of the young guys on the roster, Wormley’s performance has been a pleasant surprise to date.
He carries a 73.9 overall grade by Pro Football Focus and has proven to be more than the run stuffer we all wrote him off to be coming into this season. He ranks third on the team in sacks only behind Watt and Heyward and has done well in realistically his first season as a full-time starter. He signed a two-year deal with Pittsburgh this last offseason and given the uncertainty of Tuitt and Alualu moving forward as well as his improved play this season, it would be hard to imagine Wormley not being on this roster in 2022, if not a heavy contributor along the defensive line.
What are your thoughts of Chris Wormley’s performance against the Baltimore Ravens? Do you think he had his best game of his career Sunday? How do you think he has played in place of Tuitt and Alualu this season? Is there a chance Wormley could retain the starting job going into 2022 depending on the situation with the players mentioned above, or should Pittsburgh target someone else via free agency or the draft and relegate Wormley to a backup role? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!