Mike Tomlin Reiterates How Big A Free Agency Splash Retaining Jason Worilds Was

While the Pittsburgh Steelers have signed just three outside free agents in an offseason that hinted at the possibility of casting a larger net than normal—with only one of those free agents receiving a significant contract—it may be easy to lose sight of just how much the team has actually accomplished during this free agency period.

Part of that is due to how early the most important task was addressed during this process, which was retaining outside linebacker Jason Worilds.

Head coach Mike Tomlin reiterated yesterday how integral a part of the Steelers’ offseason plan it was to retain their budding pass rusher, a player that he firmly believes will continue to grow.

Retaining Jason Worilds was important to us”, Tomlin said, stating the obvious about a player that is currently occupying nearly $10 million in salary cap room, a large contributor to the barely more than $2 million in space remaining.

There was no secret throughout the whole process that the Steelers envisioned Worilds as a part of their future, dating back to late in the season when the team moved LaMarr Woodley to the right side to accommodate Worilds.

The only marginal surprise is that the Steelers used the transition tag on him, and that was only because general manager Kevin Colbert previously stated that he found it unlikely that they would do so. The cap situation was much bleaker when he made that statement, before it rose by nearly $7 million.

There was nothing that the Steelers could do this offseason that would have been more beneficial in helping improve the 2014 roster than to hang on to their 2010 second-round outside linebacker.

Worilds was the most promising 3-4 pass rusher slated to hit the open market at a position that the Steelers were struggling to maximize, largely due to the injuries to Woodley and the rookie limitations of Jarvis Jones.

The minimal success of the pass rush last year put a greater burden on the secondary, and in turn contributed to the inability of the defense to help out the offense by winning the field position battle and turning the ball over.

The Steelers clearly believe that Worilds will be a big player and helping turn that around, and you can hardly blame them. Aside from the fact that they really don’t have much choice, there was a lot to be encouraged about in his performance last year.

With a full offseason to prepare as an entrenched starter and, perhaps, finally in the right spot, another leap in performance should be expected from the fifth-year veteran who will still be just 26 when the season starts.

It’s plain to see, then, just how significant a move this was in the Steelers’ plans, and should be the defining moment of the team’s 2014 offseason strategy.

So the next time somebody complains that the Steelers weren’t active enough in free agency, remind them that they spent $10 million before free agency began. There’s still some work left to be done, but the offseason is a marathon, not a sprint.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • steeltown

    Agreed. He will now be at LOLB all offseason, I do expect further growth and development. In the end, im not concerned about Worilds, it’s Jarvis Jones that we badly need to take the next step.

  • dkoy85

    IMO they’re doing a good job this offseason. Sure, there are holes to be filled and depth to be added but as mentioned in the article, FA is a marathon, not a sprint. They’ve continued to bring in upgrades to check out at each position and have lost the chance at some but still have a shot at most(MJD, Carrington, Blount to name a few). If they pick up any of these guys it will be at a good price and more than likely the player chose to come to Pittsburgh to contribute to a great organization as a role player.

    I find it funny the people complaining about losing players and bringing in players to check out, just to lose them to another team, are the people who would complain about overpaying the player. The Steelers are in position to get better at every position they let go in the offseason and then add depth through the draft and post June 1st possibly adding more depth with some scragglers/releases. I’ll reserve judgement when regular season begins.

  • steeltown

    I’ll admit, obviously we all wanted Cotchery back but who could’ve guessed that Carolina would purge their entire WR depth chart, Carolina, of all places, probably the ONE place that Cotchery would actually leave the Burgh for and of course not only that but he’s easily their #1 as we sit here today

    That said, I really like the Lance Moore signing. Think about it from a depth standpoint. He has experience on the outside as well as the slot, so lets say god forbid we lose a starter on the outside for a couple weeks. I am comfortable with L.Moore stepping in to fill the void.

  • dkoy85

    Yeah seriously. That was THE perfect storm. I’m glad they found and signed his backup. I’m happy for the dude though, and he handled it in a professional manner. We can only hope Moore is half the man Cotchery is.

  • treeher

    In October, JJ will be 25 years old. Worilds is only a year and 7 months older. Yet, look at the experience difference. JJ’s development needs to be seriously accelerated if we are to reap the value of a #1 pick.

  • steeltown

    Well the good thing is he was thrown to the wolves so to speak last year, not going to sit behind two probowlers for 3yrs like Worilds did, Jarvis started some last year and should in all likelihood start this season as well

  • Bill Molinaro

    I’m confused: Have the Steelers actually signed Worilds to a contract? Is he still free to negotiate with other teams?

  • AndyR34

    Definitely need to reserve judgement …at least until some portion thru the regular season. I will say that to date…and I emphasize “to date”, I disagree that the Steelers are better at every position they let go in the off-season…or even in position to do so. I will say that S looks like an improvement w/Mitchell over Clark. However @CB C. Brown was still better than nobody. You are relying on Cortez being improved, but it is unlikely that Ike and Willie will be improved..FA addition is possible but unlikely. They are not improved at ILB. I have serious doubts that a second-year 6th round draft choice will be an improvement over Foote…this year. I understand why they made the move..it wasn’t for improvement this year. OLB…there is no way that you can say that JJ & Worilds is an improvement over Woodley & Worilds/JJ. As we should all recognize…JJ needs to improve massively in order to even be a moderately competent starter. Not saying it can’t happen, but that level of improvement in a single of-season would be unprecedented. DL…please tell me how anything that we have done to date is an improvement? No way, Jose. Even if they sign Carrington, you cannot call it an improvement…acceptable, maybe. WR cannot be called an improvement…equivalent at best and I seriously doubt that Wheaton/Moore match the production of Cotchery/Sanders. Whether they need to match it for the Steelers to be successful is irrelevant. Wheaton’s Sweed-like rookie performance does not awe me sufficiently to think that he will even match Cotch’s production, which would put a large burden on Moore to try and match Sanders. I don’t think he and Ben will develop that rapport and trust in a single year. Lastly…at this juncture you cannot say that RB is improved. If Blount or MJD are signed, I would concede it as an improvement..but that hasn’t happened yet.

    Lastly, IMHO, even though I do not believe that they have improved the roster or any of these positions…I will concede that they have laid the ground-work for POTENTIAL improvement, however, I also think that it will not show up until the end of 2014 or the beginning of next year at the earliest. In other words…they are setting the stage for a run in 2015 and after…not in 2014. JMO

  • dkoy85

    I agree they are setting the stage for a run in 2015, but I also think they are setting the stage to compete for the division title this year. You know it’s funny, I was actually waiting for your reply on this and thought it would have started off a lot more negative- so thanks for being civilized about it.

    I never said they improved every position, but I did say they are in position to improve on the positions where players were let go. I’m not including CB in this because we didn’t cut Taylor- Even though they are in position to improve it through the deep CB draft.

    Carrington will be an upgrade over Hood- not a major upgrade- but he has more potential.

    RB has the potential should they bring in MJD or Blount- each better than Dwyer- and a draft pick.

    WR, IMO, has stayed the same. I feel safe in assuming Wheaton will contribute in a Sanders like fashion, and Moore will replace Cotchery without a drop off. Where they will improve is through the deep WR draft class.

    I’ll give you ILB. I think they are trying to bring in Moats to push Williams, and I think it will. Not to mention Porter helping with his offseason development but It’s a stretch to say he’ll be better than Foote, but I do think the possibility is there.

    I don’t think you can say the OLB has regressed without Woodley, since he’s been injury prone. Assuming he’d play a full season and rotate with Jones, hindering his development, would just not me smart. Jones will get stronger and the game will move slower allowing his natural abilities to come out so I fully expect him to improve. They are in desperate need of depth and I think they sign Harrison and another cheap veteran to do so.

    The most important thing about last years rally was that it taught the young guys how to fight through adversity. How to gel and develop. And especially, how to win. That cannot be overstated enough. They let the deadbeats walk, kept the core, young, developing leaders and are bringing in FA’s and draft picks to build around them. I expect a run at the division this year and a damn good, YOUNG, football team in 2015.

  • PA2AK

    Biggest positives to me are their willingness to let some folks walk/sit for the time being, trust in some of their depth players, and make moves that are relatively cap friendly going forward. Those were three areas that I saw as big problems leading to the recent mediocre years of play. (I know, miserable years for Pittsburgh expectations, but mediocre in terms of NFL standings).

  • Melly

    he signed his tender. he is a steeler for this year. I’m sure they are or will be trying to work out a long term deal?!

  • PA2AK

    I agree with both of you, but I definitely lean more towards dkoy’s last paragraph. We really shouldn’t overlook the value of having such young players involved so heavily (defense in particular) and have the year finish on the upside. They made plenty of mistakes, but every one of them improved and turned around an 0-4 start. That is a significant foundation to build on.

    Williams is a far different player than Foote…Williams is a thumper and plays with some great emotion. While Foote seemed to be more of a technician and never really wowed me with athleticism. There is a drop in some areas and improvment in others. They just have two very different styles of play, imo. The makeup in athleticism (this coming year) may very well outweight the experience Foote had. Williams is a smart kid…and may be well ahead mentally than we would expect.

    WR situation…Wheaton is expected to take a more prominent role, and if his preparation and expectation pan out, it isn’t even really a stretch to see him eclipse what Sanders did last year. As for Cotch vs Moore…tough comparison there. Different skill sets as well. may be a drop from Cotchery’s production of 2013…but I’m pretty sure we would have seen a drop from Cotch himself had he stayed.

    OL…this is a big improvement from last year. They finished on an excellent note (for lots of reasons) and now have a legit OL Coach. Blocking for a RB like Bell is also one hell of a motivator that doesn’t have a stat column.

    Obviously we’re all conjecturing…like Andy said, we’ll have to wait to see how it pans out…but we need something to b.s. about so here it is!

  • PA2AK

    they offered the Transition tag (gave them rights to match any offers)…Worilds signed it quickly, eliminating anyone’s chance to make an offer. They have him locked up for this coming season, but can work out a long term deal if they want.

  • steeltown

    Definitely an offseason for reserving judgment, but I’d say two early selections at CB and WR could bolster both of those positions, in addition to signing Mitchell and Moore. I’ll concede even with the possible addition of Carrington, the DL seems like a wash. At RB, it shouldn’t be too hard to replace the production of Dwyer and Felix Jones.

    At LB, we will see, we have young players inside and outside and im sure we’ll see a new face via the draft as well, LB is the ultimate reserve judgment area

  • steelster

    The best part about this offseason is dumping Woodley.

  • dkoy85

    Well said. Agree about Williams and Foote comparison. These young guys showed exactly what you want from rookies and rookie contract players and that is improvement and in some cases drastic improvement. They learned to play together, now it’s time to add the pieces.

  • dkoy85

    The potential is massive among the LB core- let’s just hope the coaches and players can develop it. They could seriously be nasty in a year or two and it is really hard for me to keep a level head about them.

  • pittsburghjoe

    I hope that is a step in the direction of towards the weight room. Another move or two would not hurt either. The guy is still at least another year away. I hate to say it….

  • AndyR34

    I am sorry if I mis-characterized or mis-construed your initial comment…I was focused upon your point about viewing improvement prior to the addition of 2014 draft choices and late FA signings. Obviously…hehe!…speculation about the effects of any draft choices is only rampant speculation at this point. One would hope that they will help, but rookies seldom make a significant positive impact in their first year. I will acknowledge this…while I don’t agree with all the rampant optimism regarding the prowess of most of our FA signings…I will agree that the FO is turning over the roster with the HOPE and, maybe, expectation that some of these players will be better. I am also sure that some will be…I just don’t buy the idea that all of these are huge upgrades and I read too much of that!

  • dkoy85

    I understand being cautiously optimistic- as there is no certainty in any of this. I do think the team that went 6-2 the last half of the season managed to get better at the positions- Not a lot better but upgraded but that is yet to be seen. I definitely see your points though.

    I think we can both agree the draft can’t get here soon enough!