By Matthew Marczi
Over the past couple years, the Pittsburgh Steelers were more often than not able to turn to Jason Worilds whenever they needed an injury replacement at outside linebacker, either for James Harrison or LaMarr Woodley.
This year, he was supposed to take the next step and become the starter, but after beginning the season with the title, it was just a week later that the team decided to go with rookie Jarvis Jones. Since then, Worilds’ playing time has been sporadic at best, but, overall, the quality of that play has been ‘above the line’.
Now, Jarvis Jones is listed as questionable to play this Sunday for the big tilt against the Baltimore Ravens after being diagnosed with a concussion on Wednesday. Even if he is medically cleared to play, he may be limited to special teams duty due to the fact that he had to be held out of most practices during the week.
Therefore, the Steelers may well be turning to Worilds once again to make the start in Harrison’s old spot. Fortunately, he is coming off another fine performance against the New York Jets, during which he accumulated his first sack of the season.
Interestingly, that sack came just a play after Jones had been benched mid-series. To the best of my knowledge, that was the first time this season that the Steelers rotated their linebackers mid-series. Worilds entered the game the play after Jones was fooled on an end-around that Vince Williams was able to stop to force a third down.
Then in came Worilds and, right off the bench, he made a difference. This was, in fact, the first snap that he took on defense in the game.
Off the snap, D’Brickashaw Ferguson takes a false step to his right, eyeing Brett Keisel, which allows Worilds to use his speed to get around the veteran left tackle. Worilds does a good job of using his hands to get distance from Ferguson’s reach, and he then makes short work of running back Bilal Powell’s cut block attempt before blindsiding Geno Smith and bringing him to the ground to force a punt.
In fact, from that play on, with nearly 11 minutes left in the second quarter, the Steelers left Worilds in for the remainder of the first half. After the first series in the third quarter, he was back in again in place of Jones. Late on that drive, he showed commitment to the backside pursuit as he helped bring down running back Chris Ivory from behind.
While Worilds may have lost his starting job, he has continued to make himself a valuable contributor to this defense, and should he be forced into the starting lineup tomorrow, the Steelers do not have anything to worry about.