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Tomlin Open To Moving Worilds And Woodley Around To Maximize Pass Rush

Ever since he was drafted, it’s been obvious that Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Jason Worilds plays much better on the left side than he does the right. With starter LaMarr Woodley sidelined by a calf injury this past Sunday in the win over the Detroit Lions, Worilds took full advantage of his extra playing time on his way to registering a sack, four quarterback hits and seven total tackles. So, will Worilds continue to get work on the left when Woodley returns to the lineup? Rehabbing linebacker Larry Foote said Tuesday during a radio interview that he believes that topic is up for discussion.

“When Woodley gets back, there’s going to be some discussion,” Foote said during his interview on 93.7 The Fan. Is Woodley going to move over [to the right]? Are they going to alternate a little bit? I know Woodley doesn’t mind wherever he rushes at. Some guys only rush good from one side.”

Foote was then asked if that was indeed going to be the plan moving forward.

“I’m just assuming, I don’t know,” he said. “But I’m in the meeting room last week, after the performance against Buffalo, we were saying that when Woodley went down, Worilds went over there and he had his best game against Buffalo and he continued it this past week.”

At the beginning of training camp, linebackers coach Keith Butler was asked about Woodley potentially switching sides so that Worilds could play on the left, but he pretty much said it wasn’t going to happen even though the thought did cross his mind.

“You want a big-bodied guy over there on the left side because offenses are notoriously right-handed,” Butler said back in late July. “Most people run to the right, some people try to run to the left, but most run to the right, and we want a big body over there.”

During his Tuesday press conference, head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about the possibility of a switch.

“He has had success from the left side,” Tomlin said of Worilds play on the left side. “I am open to all possibilities in terms of moving players around to maximize our rush.”

While rookie Jarvis Jones did have an OK game Sunday against the Lions, over the last couple weeks he has made a bigger impact rushing the passer when lined up inside. Until he gets stronger, develops a bigger pass rush move arsenal and gets more comfortable in the defense, he will be a liability at the right outside linebacker position.

With the above being said, perhaps there is a chance we’ll see Woodley get some snaps on the right side Sunday against the Cleveland Browns with Worilds playing on the left. If not, perhaps a heavier rotation of the three will be used in an effort to not push Woodley too hard with him coming off of his injury. This assumes, of course, that he’ll be healthy enough this week to play. Maybe they will just rest him another week.

As for Worilds, who will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, he now has three sacks in the last three games, and his four sacks on the season are one shy of his career high of five, set in 2012. Regardless of which side he plays on moving forward, he deserves more playing time than Jones does right now.

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About Dave Bryan

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • Nolrog

    I wonder if this opens up the possibility of keeping Worilds next year, with Jones on the other side and moving Woodley out to free up some salary.

  • DoctorNoah

    I hope not! I’d rather see Jones move inside and rotate in on passing downs. Foote is at the end of his career. Vince Williams has done admirably for a late rounder but JJ seems to rush best from the inside anyway and I’m not sure what role if any Spence might have next year

  • joed32

    Not sure but I think the cap hit for Woodley would be prohibitive. It would cost a lot of cap space to cut him.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Just because you are open to an idea does not mean anything will happen.

  • Nolrog

    Cap numbers are linked at the top of the site. The link still says 2013, but then shows 2014 numbers.Woodley has a 13.59M cap hit next year, with 14.17 dead money charge, but if they designated him a post-June 1st cut, that would be spread over 2 years (which would yield a 6.5m savings next year, less whatever it would take to keep Worilds.)

  • steeltown

    I hope Worilds is retained regardless.. he wont break the bank and we need more productive players under contract that DONT break the bank

  • steeltown

    I think they should try it.. or atleast get creative with it. It’s clear that Worilds has honed in on his skills now and we sorely need more pass rush

    I like Coach Butler a lot, but sometimes he says some things that don’t make sense, “big bodied” ok well Woodley might look bigger but Worilds and Woodley are both 6’2 265lbs

  • joed32

    Does that mean they will still have to pay him 7 mil next year and pay his replacement (Worilds?) out of the 6.5 cap space savings? Worilds replacement would cost a small amount as well.

  • HarryBackside

    It’s definitely something that the team needs to experiment with. I think Worilds has proven that he can perform to expectations from the left. I don’t know how Woodley will do on the right, but worst case scenario, he performs at the same level that we have seen from Worilds and Jones. The defense need to figure out a way to consistently get pressure off of both sides on a regular basis. I don’t see a downside to checking it out.

  • HarryBackside

    Regardless of what we thing, from the FO’s perspective, that possibility of keeping Worilds has probably been open for a while, regardless of how they feel about Woodley. It’s a depth issue. Name another player on the roster, or PS, who looks capable of backing up both OLB positions? Worilds isn’t just a quality back up, he’s also a guy who can be a contributor every game, even if the starters are healthy. Don’t underestimate the value of depth when it comes to winning a championship.

  • HarryBackside

    Woodley isn’t going anywhere.

  • HarryBackside

    Dead money is money that has already been paid to a player, but hasn’t counted towards the salary cap yet. The $14M represents part of Woodley’s signing bonus, and his past year salaries that were guaranteed when he re-structured. That money is already sitting in Woodley’s bank account, but because of how the NFL accounting rules work, the Steelers were able to defer the cap hit for that money.

  • Mike Carroll

    Thanks for pointing out their sizes. I knew Worilds was pretty big too and was just about to look it up.

    Definitely agree they should experiment with Woodley on the right side. I think rushing from the right is more difficult because most left tackles are better pass protectors than right tackles. Put Woodley there and let him really earn his big contract. It would be a game changer if they could get improved pressure from the right side while maintaining what they’ve had on the left.

  • steeltown


    Yea Woodley has bigger arms I think but they are basically clones in height and weight

  • NW86

    Exactly. The Steelers have always been willing to pay some money to have solid primary backups at LB. For example, a couple years ago when Timmons and Farrior were the starting ILB’s, Foote was making ~$3M to back them up and rotate in with them. I could see the same situation – hopefully at a little lower cost – with Worilds next year. Of course, to make Worilds and any of their free agents any offer at all, some other work will need to be done on the salary cap, but that was already true with or without Worilds.

  • 2443scott

    we kept hearing worilds will take over once harrison was gone and this year we saw some good lbers coming in …even though they were rookies they showed alot ….the def is in a transition peorid and releaseing woodly now would be wrong ….i think moving woodly to right and worilds to left and maybe jones to inside right and left at times would cause a whole lot more trouble and increase the pass rush and that would leave timmons free to free lance more as a pass defender and help on stoping the run and add a new wrinkle to a blitz attack because jones inst ready to pass defend as much as timmons is …its a thought and here is another thought woodly needs to see troys theropist which helped troy with his leg probs that it sure seems woodly has ..

  • steeltown

    Agreed. As always there is some work to do cap wise, but of all the FAs next year the ones I would like back the most are Worilds, Will Allen, Cotchery, Velasco and Dwyer… none should be too costly

  • Mike Carroll

    I think Tomlin is growing more comfortable with changing things up. They don’t have much to lose this year by experimenting with Woodley for a couple a games on the right side.

  • Weiss Chad

    This the same worilds that everyone was bashing calling a wasted pick.His only sack was when hed ran by a tackle.Or How Cam Heyward is a bust.Imo looking at this all now,Worilds should have been named starter over jones this yr.I have personally learned not to judge a player til he atleast plays 5 or st6 games.Not because he hasnt cracked the starting line up.

  • Nolrog

    These are the kinds of moves that need to be considered if we want to get out of the cap hell. We have to pay the piper at some point in time, and in my opinion, the sooner the better.

  • Nolrog

    True. However, it’s a matter of money, not talent.

  • HarryBackside

    It’s not a money issue either. The Steelers have plenty of options to free up cap space, it just depends on how they choose to allocate it. Do they move on from aging players with high cap numbers, who are on the down side of their careers, or do they use it on younger, cheaper players, who are still getting better?

    Releasing Ike, Troy, Heath, and Levi Brown would put the Steelers $20M under the cap. If Ben agrees to an extension, that’s even more room. I’m not giving an opinion on what moves should be made, just showing that there’s cap space to be made if the team wants it.

  • Impact3697

    Woodley and Ike aren’t going anywhere, Woodley would cost too much to cut, and Ike just restructured so I don’t think he’s is going anywhere. Clark will be a free agent, and Polo will have to take a pay cut to stay. Keisel will also be a free agent, where if he wants to return it will have to be for cheap. Between those three guys thats a fair amount of cash saved..

  • Impact3697

    They should leave Woodley on the left side in the base defense, and then have them switch sides on pass downs.. They already move around a lot in pass situations as it is. Even if they did this every second series, the more pass rush snaps we can get Worilds on the left side the better. Worlids speed is pretty tough for the bigger right tackles to handle.

    Would also be interesting to see how Woodley does rushing from the right side..

  • RW

    I think they’re looking ahead to increases in salary cap due to the ESPN agreement. I could be wrong, but there was talk of the salary cap going up quite a bit sometime in the next few years. That would alleviate a lot of our issues with inflated contracts.

  • RW

    Ike and Heath aren’t going anywhere.

  • Steeler Wheeler

    Does that mean you think Curtis Brown is a playa? Guys like DVD, and Fang, Sylvester, and Chris Carter are potentially awesome but the coaching staff just won’t let them play?

  • treeher

    I’ve heard cap increase will be negligible

  • RW

    I heard the same about next year, but what about subsequent years? Still a stagnant cap?

  • HarryBackside

    Really? We’re talking about a team that cut Joey Porter in his prime, because of his cap number. There are no sacred cows on a .400 football team.

  • Nolrog

    The salary cap increases will be slow but steady (2-3 million a year.) People have predicted this massive jump in the cap, but analysts that examined it said that was not going to be the case.

  • CrazyTerry

    What took our defensive coaches so long? Belichick plugs evcen in WRs at DB spots. Our Def coaches have problems developing rookies fast enough, let alone getting creative with finding alternate spots for players unless the guy’s name is Polamalu.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I do not have a problem with it but if you listen to Tomlin’s interviews he will always say things like, we are always looking to get better at any position or that every players job is up for grabs, ect. and although I believe he really means that the coaching staff will need to think that it maybe a upgrade as a whole to do so. I doubt that we will see a change. I think it depends on what we can get out of Woodley from the other side which at this point of the season I just cannot see it happen.

  • Mike Carroll

    I thought it was interesting that Tomlin said in his press conference that he didn’t know if Worilds was more comfortable on the left side, but that he would talk with him about it. I was a bit stunned Tomlin would admit something like that, but also hopeful he was speaking the truth about exploring the idea.

  • NW86

    That’s a good list – I agree with all of those and all should be affordable. The only thing I would add is that I wouldn’t want to lose BOTH Ziggy and Keisel. That would leave us too thin at DE. I hope we either re-sign Ziggy to a low-cost deal or get Keisel back at the vet minimum for 1 year while grooming his successor.

  • Mike Carroll

    Now Woodley is saying he would switch sides if the team wants to try it out.

  • MC

    I hope Worilds stays. I think he plays so well on that side cause that was the side he was on in college as a DE.

    Is will well ahead of Jones right now and I had no doubt he would be coming into the season, Worilds won’t break the bank and he’s getting into his prime now so I hope they keep a guy that they spent a 2nd rounder on. He def has the talent.

  • alex

    i miss seeing a full time jack with the offense D set

    just line em up on D, with nobody with a hand in the dirt…

    everybody standing, moving, and waiting for the kill

    double CB blitz, DEs and LBs in coverage…the harder to read the better…

  • steeltown

    Agreed. While keeping Hood obviously helps long term, I would still rather keep Keisel for one more season at a reduced rate. Unless Hood takes a very modest Team friendly deal. We need the cap space and Im hoping in a year or two Arnfelt and/or N.Williams can provide depth

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