Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel was guest Wednesday on SiriusXM NFL Radio and he talked about the play of young linebackers Jason Worilds and Chris Carter while filling in for the injured James Harrison as well as the effect that it all has had on the play of LaMarr Woodley.
Keisel was asked specifically in the interview how Worilds has performed thus far while filling in for Harrison and the Steelers defensive end was pretty straight forward with his answer.
“He did pretty good,” said Keisel. “I mean Jason and Chris Carter, they split a lot of time, and they did pretty good. They\’re still young and they\’re still grasping the defense, especially some of our nickel and dime coverage packages. Whether they might be dropping into coverage, that\’s the hardest thing to get, you know.”
“They\’re used to just rushing the quarterback all of the time and when you\’ve got them back sorting receivers and having seem or three receiver hook, figuring those things out is what makes the defense difficult to get. Those guys are only going to get better with the game time that they were provided in this early stage.”
Later Keisel was asked about the attention that Woodley has received so far this season with Harrison sidelined and if teams will continue to pay more attention to him until Harrison proves that he is 100%.
“I think they have to account for James,” Keisel said. “Woodley has been getting doubled and sometimes tripled – and sliding the protection towards him – and that\’s what makes those two great. Because if you figure you double one, the other one is getting singled and we expect those guys to make big plays. It\’s great getting James back. He\’s a difference maker for us. He\’s a leader for us and we\’re excited to get him on the field.”
It is clear by the comments that Keisel made, as well as the play thus far on the field, that both Worilds and Carter are nowhere close to being able to fill the shoes of Harrison just yet. It is also clear that not having Harrison on the field has resulted in teams being able to pay more attention to Woodley in addition.
Both Carter and Worilds have barely sniffed the opposing quarterback this season when it comes to pressure, and the one sack that Worilds had against the Denver Broncos was a gimme. Woodley is playing his ass off, but the extra attention that he has received thus far has limited his ability greatly.
Keep in mind that Carter is basically a rookie this year thanks to the lockout last year and a hamstring injury. Worilds missed the entire offseason due to his wrist and is playing a different side than he did last year when Wooodley was out. The play of both is just not going to improve over night as it will take time and more repetitions for both of them to fully understand their roles when not rushing the passer, and improve their pass rushing abilities.
Harrison is of course slated to make his season debut this Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, assuming of course things go well the rest of the week in practice, and you can tell just how important it is that the defense gets him back on the field.
Should Harrison suffer a setback and miss any more time moving forward, you can expect that the sack and pressure numbers will remain low moving forward. It is so hard to believe how much one player means to the Steelers defense, but the quotes made by Keisel, along with the game tape, certainly do reflect that. Sure, the return of Troy Polamalu will help the defense to some degree, but like Keisel said Tuesday, both Harrison and Woodley on the field together is what makes that defense go.