Replacing A Championship Roster – Bearing The Weight Of Worilds

The Pittsburgh Steelers have experienced an uncommon amount of roster turnover over the last few seasons, which just so happened to coincide with consecutive years without a postseason berth.

As a result, we’re finding an unusual amount of new faces in the starting lineup compared just to last season, when the season before already introduced several new starters.

The rapid turnover in successive seasons certainly has much to do with the organization’s personnel management over the previous years. Time, as always, came out the victor as they felt the ramifications of trying to hold together a championship roster that could no longer perform like one.

Considering  how different the projected starting lineup for the start of the 2014 season is from just two seasons ago, I think it would be interesting to revisit the roster from the 2010 season—the last time the Steelers competed for a championship—to see how different this new team truly is.

Former Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley was, as fate would unfortunately have it, in his prime back in 2010, the last time Pittsburgh could fairly claim to have a championship-caliber roster.

That season, and the ones preceding it, led to Woodley’s big payday the following summer, and he seemed to be worth the investment in the first half of his very next season.

He was sprinting toward a defensive player of the year caliber performance, coming off a four-game stretch in which he registered 7.5 sacks, when he went to the ground as though he’d been shot in the leg. It was his hamstring that was shot, and that would be a recurring theme for the remainder of his tenure with the franchise.

Woodley managed just nine sacks in his final 26 games with the Steelers over the past three seasons, including a hot start to his 2013 season during which he registered all of his five sacks in the first six games.

But he began to slow down, and then, as has happened so often recently, his body gave out on him once more, as repeated soft tissue injuries kept him out for most of the second half of the year.

The Steelers moved fourth-year linebacker Jason Worilds over to his spot from the right side, where he’d started 10 games before, and never looked back—well, except when he used his pass-rushing spin move, which was finally working.

Even when Woodley returned to the lineup, the Steelers left Worilds in his place, moving the veteran to the right side.

By season’s end, Worilds was looking more like James Harrison as an all-around linebacker, showing significant improvement against the run and hitting the quarterback more often than any other outside linebacker in the league. Most of his pass-rushing damage came during the second half of the season, following the switch.

Both parties are banking on Worilds continuing that path to elite status. For the Steelers’ part, they gave him the transition tag, which pays him nearly $10 million this season, and are attempting to work out a long-term deal in the hopes that he can improve their pass rush and help them get back to the Super Bowl.

As it currently stands, Worilds seems to be betting on himself, waiting it out for a bigger contract—either later this summer from the Steelers, or next spring, possibly from somebody else.

About the Author

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

    I’ll be impressed and willing to pay top dollar when someone can provide a pass rush from the right side. Left side pressure is easier and less valuable. You don’t have to be very good to get pressure from the left side as a 3-4 LOLB. You do have to be very good to get pressure from the right side.

  • ApexSteel

    Are you serious? It takes significant effort on both sides. If you’re going to try to discredit Worilds, that’s an awful argument to try to use against him.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    I am serious.

    “It takes significant effort on both sides”? Do you really think I said that the LOLB doesn’t even have to try hard? I give them both trophy’s for effort if that makes you feel better.

    I’m not trying to discredit anyone or making an argument. I’m stating a fact. If you disagree you should make an argument that explains why you disagree.

  • ApexSteel

    I don’t even know what to argue honestly. It’s just so wrong for the most part.

    You said that the left side is easier, but making a generalization like that with no facts or stats to back it up makes it baseless. I mean sure teams put their best pass blockers to the left side, but that’s not proof that there’s a huge gap between the left And right tackles in that regard. As Mel Kiper said, there’s not really a plethora of pretty good to elite left tackles in the league anyway.

    You went on to say you don’t have to be very good to get pressure on the left side which is wrong for the exact same reasons I mentioned earlier. There’s no clear divide between the positions.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    My point is wrong and baseless because you can’t think of any reasons I’m wrong and the reasons I’m right aren’t proven to be a huge?

    Other than misquoting me a couple of times you just argued I was right and that you can’t come up with a single reason you might be right other than your feelings.

    I’m not sure where to go with this but if your best pass blocker is the LT and the right tackle is usually run oriented isn’t it simply a given that rushing the QB will be easier on one side than the other?

    The number of great LT’s doesn’t really matter. Teams put their best pass protector at LT and pay top dollar. That isn’t want happens on the other side.

    I made a very obvious statement that was a simple fact based on how teams build their lines and because most QB’s are right handed and want the blind side protected.

    If you want me to provide proof you should provide some reason I might be wrong instead of calling my point baseless because I didn’t predict what you do and don’t know.

  • ApexSteel

    Where were you misquoted?

    You said “Left side pressure is easier and less valuable”, but playing against players like Tyson Clabo and Michael Oher on the right side (among others) It’s still a challenge and there’s still an equal amount of value in a guy who can get to the QB from there.

    You also went on to say “You don’t have to be very good to get pressure from the left side as a 3-4 LOLB.” And the point I’m making is that the difference between most team’s left and right tackles pass blocking ability is miniscule.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    I’m not here to play word games. a quote means the exact same words not what you think they mean. Context means including the entire point.

    I think I’ve been clear enough and you can feel free to agree or disagree.

  • dgh57

    Overall it’s easy to say a LOLB would have a easier time of it until you get a RT to the playoffs or the Super Bowl. If a RT gets pumped up for a big game it may not be so easy.

    When Worilds took over for Woodley the last few games of last season to me that was strike three against him. His health issues and his bloated contract was his first two strikes and then when you add him not getting it done from the left side anymore(and Worilds was)that stamped his ticket out of town.

  • I agree with your statement LT are the premier pass blocking tackles and right tackles are the lesser of the two. Some teams have two good tackles. But for the most part it’s more difficult to have a good pass rush as a ROLB than LOLB… If Worilds wants to be paid like a premier pass rusher he needs to prove it this season.