Now that James Harrison is gone, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Jason Worilds will finally get the chance to fill in his shoes in 2013. While filling Harrison\’s shoes is probably just fine with Worilds, being compared to the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year and five-time Pro Bowler while wearing those shoes isn\’t, according to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“I\’m not James Harrison,” said Worilds, per the Friday report by Bouchette. “When Jason Worilds steps on the field, anyone who expects James Harrison is fooling themselves.”
Stepping on the field as a member of the Steelers defense, however, is something that Worilds has had a problem accomplishing since he was drafted in the second-round of the 2010 NFL Draft. In addition to having both Harrison and LaMarr Woodley ahead of him on the depth chart, Worilds also battled hamstring problems and a wrist injury in his first three years with the Steelers. Those injuries resulted in him missing not only valuable practice time, but several games in addition.
Last year, Worilds was sidelined most of the offseason while recovering from wrist surgery, and by the time he was deemed ready to play, fellow backup linebacker Chris Carter wound up starting the first three games of the 2012 season in place of the rehabbing Harrison, because of all the practice time that was missed. In fact, had Woodley not missed games last season; Worilds would have been lucky to see any playing time in 2012.
However, in defense of Worilds, he did manage to register five sacks in the 435 defensive snaps that he played in 2012 when given the opportunity to replace an injured Woodley, but he never showed the signs of a being a dominating outside linebacker during any of those games. Now that he has first-round draft pick Jarvis Jones breathing down his neck, he will need to turn into a dominating player or his football career will be in jeopardy by mid-season.
Nobody is expecting Worilds to be Harrison, but everybody is expecting him to register twelve plus sacks as a starter in 2013. Even Harrison wasn\’t Harrison the last two seasons and as a result the Steelers averaged just 36 sacks the last two years after averaging almost 49 the three years prior to that. If the Steelers outside linebackers do not get consistent pressure and sacks, the defense suffers big time in the all-important turnover category and that simply can\’t continue in 2013 if the team is wanting to compete for a championship.
Veteran inside linebacker Larry Foote probably had the best advice for Worilds when he talked on DVE Radio about what he said to the Virginia Tech product a little over a week ago.
“If you\’re rushing the passer and getting sacks, I don\’t care who\’s behind you or who they got; they can\’t take you off the field,” said Foote, when describing what he had told Worilds. “And that\’s got to be your approach. Everybody\’s been around this league. We know about first-round picks and coaches, and organizations are pulling for them to do big things, but if you run around there getting sacks and dominating, it\’s your position.”