With Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Jason Worilds now back in the fold for at least one more season, the organization must now decide whether or not to move on from fellow linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who has missed 14 games due to various injuries dating back to 2011. The general consensus is that Woodley will be released with a post June 1 designation at some point this offseason and should that wind up coming to fruition, the Steelers outside linebacker depth will go from questionable to even more questionable.
Should Woodley indeed be jettisoned, that will leave the Steelers with Worilds and Jarvis Jones as the starters, and combined they have registered 19 career sacks with 18 coming from Worilds. In addition, neither has played more than 792 snaps in a season. Those are of course loaded numbers as Jones was a rookie last season while Worilds only started only 11 games.
Loaded snap numbers aside, the last time the Steelers had both of their starting linebackers each play 91% or more of all defensive snaps during the regular season was in 2010 when James Harrison logged 1022 defensive snaps and Woodley logged 954 of a possible 1,044. Assuming that both Worilds and Jones can log those kind of playing time percentages in 2014, who would play roughly the other 10% of the snaps?
If Woodley is indeed ultimately released, fourth-year linebacker Chris Carter would be next in line on the depth chart unless a free agent is signed or a more talented draft pick arrives in May. Carter has played all of 235 snaps in his first three seasons and so far hasn’t been impressive at all. Does he just need more playing time? If so, do we really hope that he gets in 2014?
It’s scary to think about what would happen if either Worilds or Jones were to go down for an extended amount of time with an injury in 2014 or if it takes the latter of the two a quarter or more of next season to become the player we all hope he can be.
Woodley has frustrated me with his injuries as much as he has most of you and while it seems a forgone conclusion that he will be gone soon, deep down inside I hope general manager Kevin Colbert can find a way to keep him around at least one more season, and preferably at a much lower cost. If not, I sure hope Carter makes one hell of an improvement this offseason, because odds are good that he’ll have to play nearly two games worth of snaps in 2014.