By Matthew Marczi
The idea that Jason Worilds plays better on the left side of the defense has followed him around for most of his career. That may well be true; throughout his career, he has generated more pressure against the pass on a per-play basis on the left side.
Though three of his four sacks this season have come from the right side (the fourth came from an inside coverage position), Worilds’ Pass Rushing Productivity from the left side is nearly two points higher this season on the left.
In 80 pass rushes on the left side, Worilds has seven quarterback hits and four hurries. In 96 snaps on the right side, he has three sacks and seven hurries.
Looking back at last season, Worilds only played 22 snaps on the right side, and he only managed one sack. He started several games on the left side for LaMarr Woodley, however, to the tune of 144 snaps, and he registered 15 total pressures, with three sacks.
2011 was a similarly imbalanced season. When James Harrison missed four games due to an injury, Worilds was injured at the same time, missing a golden opportunity to start on the right side. As a result, he only played 23 snaps on the right, for three pressures. On the left side, he registered 27 pressures on 172 rushes with three sacks.
Although the workload differential between the left side and the right side prior to this season has been massive, it is an accurate statement to say that Worilds has been more successful on the left side.
Thus, it’s no surprise that there was some talk after the past game about getting Worilds more snaps on the left side, even after Woodley returns.
The question that this raises, however, is how this will affect Woodley, who is the team’s best pass rusher.
Woodley is perhaps the single most one-sided outside linebacker in the league. Since 2008, Woodley has rushed the passer from the outside 1721 times. Twelve of those pass rushes came on the right side.
The sample size is far too small and far too spaced out to draw any conclusions as to how Woodley might perform on the right side. While he has not recorded a sack on the right side, he has had three pressures, but to use that to project future performance would be in error.
Who knows what will happen going forward. The Steelers have been moving their outside linebackers around a lot this season in ways that they seemingly haven’t in years past, so who’s to say they won’t get Woodley more snaps on the right side, even if it’s not something with which he has experience? Of course, before that can happen, he must get back on the field.