999! No, not bottles of beer on the wall. That\’s the number of defensive snaps that Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Jason Worilds has played on defense since being drafted in second round of 2010 draft.
While that number does not equate to a full season worth of playing time, it is pretty close. Depending on what happens with veteran linebacker James Harrison over the next few days, Worilds could be in line to start adding to that number as a full-time starter.
Harrison could be released over the next few days if he doesn\’t accept a pay cut. Even if he is retained, you would have to think that the Steelers want to get Worilds, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract, on the field more in 2013. If that isn\’t accomplished, then the Steelers organization effectively wasted a second round draft pick by selecting him. Many will say that they wasted the pick when they didn\’t draft Sean Lee instead. The jury has been out a while on the selection, but a verdict is forthcoming.
Worilds split time early last season with Chris Carter on the right side with Harrison sidelined by his knee issue. Why was he forced to split time? His recovery from off-season wrist surgery cost him a considerable amount off practice time leading up to the season. In fact, he didn\’t play in any of the Steelers four preseason games and wasn\’t able to practice until right before the season started because of his lengthy stay on the PUP list.
Worilds finally got himself up to speed after the first quarter of the season was in the books and it was a good thing that he did. LaMarr Woodley was lost with a hamstring injury early in the Week 5 game against the Philadelphia Eagles and Worilds filled in for him. The Virginia Tech product would go on to fill in for Woodley quite a bit on the left side from there on out due to injuries and that is where he logged most of his 425 snaps of playing time as a result.
Worilds has taken the same path that several other Steelers linebackers have taken before him. It is rare for any Steelers defensive player to start in their rookie season and very few have been able to crack the lineup in their second year. Years three and four, however, is usually when the ones that will stick long-term crack the starting lineup. It\’s now or never for Worilds.
Worilds managed to log 5 sacks last season in the 175 times that he rushed the quarterback. He finished the season second on the team in sacks as Harrison and Lawrence Timmons led the way with 6 each. Is he ready to assume the starting right outside linebacker role in 2013? Are the Steelers confident enough in him to handle it? Releasing Harrison certainly would indicate that they are.
The way that things are heading right now with Harrison, Worilds could be on his way to playing 999 or more snaps on defense in 2013. It is a crucial year for both him and the Steelers, who have to get more production out of their outside linebackers than they have the last two seasons.