Jason Worilds Has Big Shoes To Fill Now In His Contract Year

Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers have released linebacker James Harrison it will be up to fourth-year linebacker Jason Worilds to fill his shoes at the right outside linebacker position. Those shoes are large ones at that.

Pro Football Focus recently posted about the future of Harrison following his Saturday release and they highlighted his strengths and weaknesses moving forward. As far as his ability to apply pressure on opposing quarterbacks last season, Harrison had a steep drop-off. According to their stats he only had a 9.52% pressure rate in 2012 and that was 7.48% less than it was in 2011.

In defense of Harrison, it took him a while to get up to full speed last season after being sidelined during the off-season and preseason because of his knee. Over the course of the last 7 games, however, he only produced a pressure rate of 10.1%, and that included 5 of the 6 sacks that he registered all season.

So how did Worilds stack up in that stat? He produced a 9.64% pressure rate in 2012. Being as we gave Harrison a pass early on in the season, Worilds also deserves a pass for the first 3 games of the season, as he too missed time in the off-season and preseason due to his wrist. From Week 5 on, Worilds produced a 10.95% pressure rate and 4 sacks. Keep in mind that all of those snaps came on the left side as he was filling in for an injured LaMarr Woodley.

As you can see, both Harrison and Worilds produced pretty much the same from a pressure rate standpoint all season long, albeit mostly from different sides.

So what about run defense for both players? As PFF points out in their post, Harrison had a 9.10% stop percentage in 2012. Worilds, on the other hand, had a 5.0% stop rate percentage last year. A stop is quantified by them as a tackle that prevents an offensive success (defined as gaining 40% of required yardage on first down, 60% on second down, and the entire required yardage on third or fourth down).

Those stats tell you that this is an area that Harrison has continued to excel in and one that Worilds will certainly need to improve in moving forward.

I must disclaimer here that all of the stats used above could be construed as being very subjective, but when you go back and watch all of the games from last year, you will likely come to the same conclusion as all of these stats tell you. Basically, not enough pressure from any of the outside linebackers and that Worilds needs to improve against the run.

To close, Worilds needs to improve not only against the run, but his pressure rate needs to be that of Harrison a few years ago. Basically around 16% or higher. It goes without saying that Woodley needs to return to his 2010 form as well.

2013 is a very important year for Worilds as it is a contract year. Should he pick up where Harrison left off in 2011, he will likely get paid. If he doesn\’t, he will more than likely be gone. The Steelers defense revolves around getting pressure and sacks from their outside linebackers, and the last two seasons the group has collectively not produced enough of either.

  • Bradys_Dad

    What was once (and historically) the strong suit of the Steelers Defense has now become the biggest question mark on the D side of the ball. I’m just waiting to see what kind of rabbit KC pulls out of his hat this time. Am I the only one who’s a bit skeptical about this upcoming season?

  • zyzak

    No you are not, it’s downright frightening. D line, LBs OL RB WR TE DB all have very large ???????.

  • TJimmy

    As I suspected, Worilds performed just as well as Harrison in getting to the quarterback last year. Harrison has a whole lot of experience, whereas Worilds doesn’t. That can make a “Worild” of difference and he should only get better, assuming he stays healthy. The OLB position is one that needs a lot of reps…per Lebeau.

    If Worilds does well, however, he could be lost in free agency next year or the Steelers will have to pay him well. I’m thinking that one reason the Steelers were looking at keeping Harrison another year at a reduced rate is so they could avoid that potential headache.

  • steeltown

    I am not overly concerned with the D… the Offense is another story, it wasnt that long ago that Wallace and Mendy were our top playmakers..both gone soon.. and now our other top playmaker, Heath, is recovering from a serious injury.. Foster, Starks, Legs and Colon could all be gone and we have a first year OLine Coach and 2nd yr OC

    The D will be fine, we have Ike, Troy, Keisel and Clark still, Cortez Allen is rounding into form and personally I am excited to see McLendon as the starter, that guy just adds another element of quickness to the front seven and brings added pressure and aggressiveness. Hampton (though a beast against the run) never had more than 2.5sacks in a given season, McLendon had 2sacks last year with very very limited snaps.

    As long as Woodley returns to form and Worilds improves against the run, we’ll be fine

  • steeltown

    I know, watch Worilds have a 10sack season and then hit the free agent market in 2014, once again we’ll be trying to retain our own talent, yet not wanting to overpay for it

  • Bradys_Dad

    Are they going to release the Big Snack ? I too am excitied about McLendon getting a chance to start (unless the move Ziggy over?).

  • steeltown

    I think Hamp is gone, he’s a UFA, we’re going to have trouble re-signing K.Lewis and Foote, much less try and re-sign Casey, we have 3 young NT’s on roster in McLendon, Ta’amu and Fangupo

  • Maurice_hill_district

    Yes & it is baffling. But we have our ace Dick LeBeau, who by end of seasons somehow always gets our D into top 5 defenses every year. Thats the thing that makes me think he will somehow do it again this year.

  • NW86

    I’ve been thinking about this too. I wonder if it’s worth taking a shot at a contract extension this summer for Worilds (like they did with Brown). It may be hard to get done though because Pittsburgh isn’t going to want to pay big money for an unproven guy, and Worilds may be confident that he can prove himself this year and earn big bucks next year (like Lewis). If he values job security and some guaranteed money though, maybe they could get a modest extension done.
    A potential topic for a future Steelers Depot post maybe?

  • steeltown

    Sounds good in theory… but remember Brown had that 1,000yds rec. and 1,000kick return yds season.. Worilds is technically unproven, but yes, I agree, same could be said for Foster last offseason. Wish they couldve signed Foster to a modest deal before he became a UFA, just like I wish they would with Worilds and McLendon

  • Tom

    Bingo….that is because the Steelers don’t get their young defensive players on the field quick enough. They wait until year four…which makes it too late to get a favorable extension done.

  • Jollyrob68

    The more Worilds is on the field the better he will become.