When the Pittsburgh Steelers released linebacker James Harrison over a week ago, it left a void on the right side of the defense that fourth-year linebacker Jason Worilds will be asked to fill in 2013. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, who is currently in Arizona for the annual NFL owners\' meetings, commented Sunday on the opportunity that awaits the 2010 second-round draft pick to prove that he can fill Harrison\'s shoes.
"I believe that Jason Worilds is chomping at the bit to prove he is capable of being that," Tomlin said. "When I first got to Pittsburgh in 2007, and we had to let go of Joey Porter, there was a guy that came in my office that was ready to prove that he was capable of 900-1,000 snaps a year. His name was James Harrison.
"We will see what Worilds is capable of doing."
Tomlin admitted Sunday that change is part of the business in regard to both Harrison and Worilds.
"I think if we all knew what James Harrison was capable of he would have played more than he did before 2007," said Tomlin. "But that’s what this is. That’s what change does. It provides opportunities for guys to ascend and take advantage of opportunities, and to carve out a niche or a name for themselves. I think that these competitors are challenged by that or encouraged by those opportunities that change presents."
Worilds has to prove first and foremost that he can stay on the field. In his first three seasons with the Steelers he has been slowed by hamstring and wrist problems. His wrist surgery last off-season prevented him from taking part in mini camp and training camp, but he was available for action by the time the regular season started and he dressed for all 16 regular season games.
The Steelers only recorded 37 sacks last season with Worilds getting credit for 5 of them. That 5 needs will need to turn into 12 or more in 2013 if the Steelers expect their defense to return to the same level that it was in 2010, when they recorded 48 sacks, 21 interceptions and 14 fumble recoveries. Worilds also must improve jis play against the run in addition.
In his first three seasons, Worilds has played better on the left side than he has on the right. While many suggest that fellow outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley should switch sides to allow Worilds to play on the left, that\'s just not realistic. Woodley has played his entire NFL career on the left side and that is where he will remain.
Worilds, according to Teresa Varley on steelers.com, sounds like he is up for the challenge.
"My main focus has always been to get better every time I step on the field," said Worilds. "My all around game has gotten better. I am more comfortable in my assignments, so I don’t just go out there and not make a mistake, but go out there and make a play. I have been fortunate enough to transition easily from defensive end in college to an outside linebacker. You have to know your position, where to be and how it affects the man next to you. You have to know how important it is for you to do your job and the way you do your job. I want to do the right things, at the right time and the right way."
The right time is now for Worilds, and like Tomlin quipped on Sunday. "No pressure."