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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.

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