Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Jason Worilds is now in the final year of his rookie four-year contract, and the expectations are high for the 2010 second round selection out of Virginia Tech.
When you look back at the first contract years of Worilds\' predecessors at the outside linebacker positions, it gives you some hope that 2013 will be a breakout year for the successor to James Harrison.
In 1997, Jason Gildon was in a contract year and recorded five sacks a year after registering seven as a starter. While five is low, it was good enough to tie him for second most on the team. Keep in mind that on the other side of him that season was a deteriorating Greg Lloyd, who demanded far less respect at that stage of his career. Gildon was given a four-year contract worth almost $9 million the following offseason and would go on to average 11.25 sacks over the course of the next four seasons.
In 2001, Joey Porter was in the final year of his rookie three-year contract and recorded nine sacks and forced four fumbles that season, his second as a starter. After signing a six-year, $22.5 million deal in April of 2002, Porter recorded another nine sack season and a career high, 60 tackles.
Harrison, who succeeded Porter in 2007, recorded 16 sacks in 2008 and was named Defensive Player of the Year. It wasn\'t his final year under contract, but he was rewarded as if it was. In May of 2009, he received an extension worth over $50 million.
In the final year of his rookie contract, LaMarr Woodley registered ten sacks and three forced fumbles. In his first three years as a starter, he had recorded 35 sacks, and the Steelers had no choice but to place the franchise tag on him and work out a long-term deal, which they did.
In reality, the Steelers have not had a problem with one outside linebacker succeeding another one in recent history, at least not in the era of general manager Kevin Colbert.
How will things work out for Worilds in 2013? It is entirely up to him, but a 10 plus sack season will undoubtedly get him the franchise tag next offseason and eventually a long-term deal.