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Jason Worilds Headed Back Where He Started


By Matthew Marczi

It was a nice and productive three-week detour, but from the looks of it Jason Worilds will be headed back right where he started the season.

At right outside linebacker.

Despite the fact that Worilds has been enormously productive with LaMarr Woodley missing the past three weeks—which forced the Steelers to start Worilds in his place and rookie Jarvis Jones on the right side—the indications are strong that Woodley will resume his spot on the left side this week.

Woodley was reported as a full participant in practice on Thursday, which is a strong indication that he will be ready to resume play this Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. And should he do so, it will be in his usual spot.

He told the Steelers’ website in an article posted yesterday that Worilds would be moving back to the right side, saying “that’s just the decision that’s been made, that I’m on the left and he’s on the right”.

Arguments could be made on both sides.

On the one hand, Woodley is the only 3-4 outside linebacker in the league this year with significant playing time that spent virtually his entire time on a single side of the field. He has not taken a single pass-rushing snap on the right side this year.

Worilds, meanwhile, has spent his professional career learning to be ambidextrous, although it just so happened that he has received the majority of his starting opportunities on the left. During one four-game stretch that James Harrison was forced to sit out, Worilds spent that same stretch injured himself.

Still, he has received a tremendous amount of playing time from both sides, with most of this season coming on the right, and it was his versatility in playing both sides that allowed the Steelers to rotate all three of their outside linebackers when they were all healthy.

Of course, it is difficult to ignore the fact that the recent three-game stretch with Worilds filling in on the left side has been the best of his career, particularly against the run. Head coach Mike Tomlin said during his Tuesday press conference that that fact had not gone unnoticed, yet the team has evidently decided that the team would still be best served with Worilds on the right side and Woodley on the left.

Personally, I am curious to see how this plays out. What I have seen from Worilds over the last few weeks is not something that I’m convinced is dependent upon playing on the left side. I have seen him playing better in general. I have seen him conquer his pass-rushing spin move. I have seen him show more assignment discipline against the run. Now it’s time to see if he can maintain that on the right side.

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About Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • JAMESH

    LaMarr’s calf seems to be a recurring problem. Let’s hope it holds up for awhile.

  • steeltown

    The release of Harrison and the chronic calf and hamstring injuries that Woodley has annually of late make Worilds a high priority this offseason, I cant stress it enough..otherwise we’re spending another high draft pick at OLB when we need DBs, OL and TE/WR badly

  • WilliamSekinger

    From what I can remember, the only plausible explanation for keeping Woodley on the left came from Keith Butler. His explanation was that teams in the NFL were very right handed when running the ball and they needed a big bodied LOLB to stop the run game.

    I would be interested in a break down of how Worilds did in the past 3 games -vs- runs to his side. If he got gashed a bunch of times I would understand putting Woodley back on the left. If he did well however, I’m going to suggest the coaches are just being hard headed again…and shame on them.

  • colingrant

    I agree with you Marczi. Fans will be in an uproar, but this makes sense. Moving Woodley to the right side is a move that’s made in training camp, not mid-season. When healthy, he’s as productive as Worilds, with a track record to prove it. And while Worilds may be more successful on the left, from what I’ve seen of him, the emergence of new rushing techniques has as much and perhaps more to do with his success as anything. His path to the quarterback is straighter, as he’s not attempting to avoid the right tackle now, but actually seeks engagement first and then opts to counter-move.

    Also, from his perspective, if he can prove to be successful on the right side, he’s better off and his agent knows it. Top pass rushers typically play the qb’s blind side (right), and if he puts on tape, over the next four games, the ability to pressure from the right side, his stock will increase even more, as it will confirm that he’s position flexible and can rush the passer from either side. Better for him, but not necessarily for the Steelers.

    I’m really curious however how his pass rushing technique changed so drastically in so little time. People forget that he’s played the left side numerous times without the production he’s had over the last 4 games. Last year he filled in for Woodley for an even longer stretch than this year with very, very mixed results, both in pass rushing and run support. What changed so quickly?

  • Steeler Wheeler

    I’m cool with what the coaches choose on this one. Actually, I’ve got no choice regarding any of their decisions but sometimes I like to bitch more than others :)

    Both players have excelled on the left and the Steelers have got little production from the right. So….if you have to have one player excel, I’d choose the one who is under contract and let the free-agent-to-be pile up 1-tackle, no sack games from the right. Makes him less costly to re-sign.

  • RJ

    I’m in no way a fan of this move. There have been more than a few games this year where Woodley has gone unrecognized throughout the game. The games where he does make plays, they are far and few in between. Worilds has been running on beast mode since he has taken over and has given the team an actual pass rush. It’s clearly obvious that he is more effective at LOLB, then he is at ROLB.

    I think the smart move is to stick with the hot hand and give Woodley a shake at the ROLB position. Theres plenty of video evidence of Worilds at ROLB and Woodley at LOLB and the results were minimal. Worilds even lost his starting role to a rookie at ROLB.

  • cencalsteeler

    25 up votes!

  • ATL96STEELER

    Worilds has certainly looked better playing L…but I think you have to temper it a little when you look at who those games were against…secondly, some of his best rushes were off stunts, not flat out beating his man.

    In short, he’s not Woodley imo. but I do agree it would be interesting to see how they would play with Woodley on the R.

  • JohnB

    Worilds is getting better with each game so that’s not to say he wont be as good when he’s on the right side…we’ll see this weekend.

    my problem is this, I don’t think we should cut Woodley and as much as he’s hampered by injury, so was Worilds. Plus we got a good guy in JJ waiting in the wings once he puts on some muscle. Theres never such thing as too many OLBs but I wouldn’t want to make some of the decisions they(the FO) have to make.

    Worilds looks just like Woodley did before he signed the big contract so theres no reason to say he “wont drop off” like Woodley did once he gets his. You just never know.

  • steeltown

    I find it hard to believe that with all of the blitz packages and platooning they’ve been doing this season that Woodley has not taken a single pass rushing snap on the Right side. Why not? Why not just give him a few, not a ton, but a few with Worilds on the Left and see what happens..

  • 20Stoney

    I predict that Wood will be injured again before halftime.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    Preach on, brother. It just makes more sense to re-sign Worilds considering we already know what we have and going in draft without him would mean; forcing JJ to start. We would have to not only draft a pass-rusher in first 3 rounds but also develop him with the chances of him not developing as one. Albeit Alonzo Jackson or Cris Cater. Let the older players go, its time anyway as they already degress as players.

  • Lucus Rodriguez

    This off season please retain Worilds. And during training camp move Woodley to the left and JJ to the middle. Please.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    agree. Argumentative, Kevin Butler already proven that he’s a stiff coach who play favoritism on some occasions, as I mentioned a while back then that Butler might just be an average linebacker coach, having great linebackers like James Farrior and the translation between James Harrison from Joey Porter were much more smoothier, those situation can fool my, anyone’s eyes. This one, I don’t know though but I’m betting against Butler, and his campaign for next defensive coordinator when LeBeau hang up his cleats and push-ups every morning.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    And what’s scary, Worilds still could be better. Goosebumps.

  • RMSteeler

    Don’t know what side Woodley’s injuries are on, but if on the left side, from a medical standpoint, a move to the right would take pressure off his left leg and allow more leverage when pushing off his right leg going around the corner on a rush. If injuries are on both legs, let’s see him stunt more to the middle regardless of what side he lines up on.

  • Jason

    You’re right he’s not Woodley. He makes about 15% of Woodley’s check and produces more.

  • Matthew Marczi

    My guess would be due to the 3-man rotation they were able to work with. They were able to keep Jones on the right and Woodley on the left with Worilds the mobile guy. But it’s not like Woodley hasn’t played a couple snaps here any there on the right in previous years, of course.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I actually did take a look at Worilds against the run in his last game and argued that he has grown even more against the run than he has as a pass rusher. The article is called “Biggest Strides for Worilds Coming Against the Run, Not the Pass”. It should be at the bottom of the front page, if not probably on the top of the second. I would just link it but links require the post to be moderated instead of posted right away.

    At the same time, I’ve previous written about the considerations the team has to make on the impact moving Woodley to the right side would have on him. And Mark Kaboly of the Tribune-Review has also sort of debunked Butler’s myth that teams are primarily right-handed when it comes to the run. The truth is that the Steelers are far more right-handed than most other teams. I remember in particular that the Patriots ran far more to the left than to the right against the Steelers this year.

  • WilliamSekinger

    Thanks! I went back and read your piece. It definitely answers my question of weather or not Worilds was doing a good job -vs- the run or not. Sounds like Mr Butler needs stop being so rigid as the poster below suggests. After all, this team needs to win out if they want to have a shot at the post season. 2 effective rushing OLBs would go a long way towards making the postseason a reality.

  • Jazz

    I don’t get this at all, and it really doesn’t matter if I do or not, I’m just another fan. But I’m a loyal, have been for years now. Why disrupt the chemistry of the Defense? LaMarr Woodley wasn’t playing nearly as good as Worilds was. Jason Worilds is going to get paid regardless if he is wearing a Steelers uniform next year or not, why not see if he can continue to be a disruptive force on the defense? We all know what Woodley can do when he is healthy, but he rarely has been since he got paid in 2010. Why hold onto a veteran that’s consistently broke? That’s the problem with the F/O, time to move on and get some young blood in their. The rest of the NFL loves the Steelers, they draft fairly well in rounds 1-3, train and groom their players, then allow them to walk after 4yrs. Oh YEAH!

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