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.