Jason Worilds Faces Make-or-break Season Of Sorts

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

  • Piper

    ultimately, if Woriids fails it’d come down to his flawed DNA as not having like Woodley or other stout DE’s on other stout teams such as Giants and 49er’s… it’s a game of inches, nagging injuries could be part of the culprit.

  • mghjr88

    nice read. totally agree

  • RIP

    Worilds seem better on Woodley’s side than Harrison. He will wait along time to replace #56

    This will be his last year in Pgh if he doesn’t improve. Wondering why our linebackers coaches are really poor in developing young talent.

  • Harold

    I remember when Joey Porter was released, we drafted 2 OLB prospects in the first 2 rounds because we had no legitimate prospects in the pipeline. Then some guy named James Harrison surprised everyone. He had been kicking around for a few years playing a little spot duty here or there, but once he had a full year as a starter, the light just seemed to come on. I’m not saying that Worilds will ever be close to James Harrison in production (trust me), but I am hopeful that if he could play a season as a starter he would improve dramatically.

    Having said that, we still need one more really talented OLB on our roster. And I would be very surprised if we didn’t draft one in the first 2 rounds in 2013. Worilds needs a big year.

  • NW86

    What do you call Woodley and Timmons??

  • Critter

    Make or break, of sorts? That’s like saying, “indecision may or may not be my problem”. Why the hedge? It’s either make or break, or it isn’t.

  • RC

    I agree, with the full year as a starter assesment. It gets annoying that we can never put guys in that are not great but solid to learn on the job so to speak. Other teams do it all the time and somtimes I think our lack of putting these guys in the games is to the detriment to the players development and confidence. Like with Foote, leave the sucker as the back up and let Spence and Sylvestor fight for the staring position. I personally, think now that DE Ziggy Hood has a good chance to start a full season we will see him bloosom to an extent.

  • Ssstp

    When we drafted Worilds I thought he was a questionable pick. Doesnt mean he wouldnt develop but he has problems grasping the playbook, injuries, and he doesnt seem to have the strength to go up against NFL tackles…this is a critical year for him IMO!

  • Jprankster2005

    I think they will add another LB if he doesn’t pan out to be the replacement…… But I think TE and Safety will be the more of the need……. And if Wallace doesn’t sign a WR will be a top pick as well……. CB all depends on this yr. I would say……But I think they will add another LB every yr….. They alway do but a first or second rounder in LB next yr. would be hard to see, With what they actually need as of right now……Polamulu replacement needs to be groomed and that would give him 2 yrs. with Troy, Clark replacement even needs to come faster probably….. Another TE besides Miller, Seeming he’s getting up there around 30…… And If the 2nd CB doesn’t perform they will need a CB…….. I think Harrison will play atleast 2 of the remaining 3 yrs. on his contract……..His back is bad, But doesn’t seem to matter once the game starts…..

  • Jprankster2005

    Foote is going to be way better than Sylvester and Spence will have to learn the Defense first, Now i’m not saying Spence wouldn’t be better than Foote I’m saying he has to learn all the plays, It’s not an easy Defense…… Foote will be an upgrade from Farrior in a large part, Sylvester I don’t think has it down yet…… And may not be the future at the spot…… I would be surprised if Foote isn’t back with the team next yr…. But I could be wrong….. And Spence may be the future there, But he needs atleast a yr. under his belt….

  • Cols714

    Woodley, Timmons, Harrison, Farrior, Foote, Porter, Haggans, and before that….

  • steec1ty

    Personally, I thought the pick odd at the time, but only because I didn’t know anything about the guy. Once I looked into him, he had all the makings of a Woodley type pick. For comparison:

    Worilds:
    http://www.nfldraftscout.com/ratings/dsprofile.php?pyid=76709&draftyear=2010&genpos=

    Woodley:
    http://www.nfldraftscout.com/ratings/dsprofile.php?pyid=10128&draftyear=2007&genpos=de

    Woodley was a bit stronger, Worilds a bit more athletic…one perfect for the strong side the other for the weak…both had the production at big time programs.

    I’m not going to lie, I’d like to have seen more production from the guy, especially when Harrison was injured last year, but in the end he’s still only 24 years old (and a young one at that with a March birthday) and now has three years of NFL experience. Harrison was a “no body” sitting behind Porter until he got a shot at age 28. If he does nothing more than provide solid depth and special teams while backing up a legitimate Defensive MVP (just like Harrison did) then I’ll give him all the slack in the world until the day he starts.

    When Harrison is gone (or obviously done) and Worilds isn’t in, or playing to a high level, then I’ll start to worry.

  • http://twitter.com/JamesLucas125 James Lucas

    Worilds was 3rd on the team in pressures (20) and 2nd in QB hits (7) playing only 521 snaps. His problem was he just didn’t finish those plays. Even though this is his 3rd year in Pittsburgh it’s his first real offseason. It’s a shame he broke his thumb but he was still present for OTAs which will help in his development. The kid can get the edge, he just needs to get a little stronger and finish.

  • SteelSpine

    When I hear “make or break year”, I think Keenan Lewis & Ryan Mundy, not Worilds. (But hey that’ll be a different thread). Worilds gets more benefit of the doubt from me because having 2 solid veterens at starting OLB, havent seen Worilds enough to see if Worilds failed alot. So all we really know about Worilds ability-wise is physically he fits the mold of what Steelers do at OLB: draft a DE who is too small to play DE in pros, groom him for OLB (Haggans was a good comparison). If Harrison’s back (or other injuries) is a chronic problem then Worilds better be ready now, & I agree there has been enough time that if Worilds is ever going to be ready, he should be ready now to step in.