On the Steelers: Worild's injury slows camp progress

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If rookie linebacker Jason Worilds feels as though he is behind at Steelers training camp, welcome to the club. Past members include James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons.

Rookies don't get a lot of time to learn at camp. New wrinkles from Dick LeBeau's defense are installed every day, and players either assimilate the information on the fly or get lost in the pile of X's and O's. The latter is usually revealed once the rookies step onto the playing field.

Worse, there is no recap period. And another new wrinkle is coming the next day.

"With veterans, we've already been through this, so when the coaches fly through it it's nothing to us," said Timmons, a former No. 1 draft choice. "But to rookies, when they missed out on that, it's going so fast it's like a whole other speed to them."

And so it is with Worilds, the Steelers' No. 2 draft choice.

Like all rookies, he is trying to absorb as much as he can of LeBeau's intricate defense, no matter how fast the schemes are being tossed at him.

But, complicating matters is that Worilds hasn't been on the practice field enough to demonstrate what he has been able to learn. He aggravated a hamstring injury that forced him to miss most of the first week of training camp and has spent the past couple days trying to be careful to not damage it further.

"The installment time is about 10 minutes," said Worilds, a defensive end at Virginia Tech who has been converted to outside linebacker. "They put in all the plays in about 10 minutes, you watch a little film and now you have to go on the field and run it. It's crazy."

It's also overwhelming.

"It can be," Worilds said. "You have to do what you can, take your time, break it down and understand as much as you can for that one practice. And try not to make the same mistake the next day.

"It's definitely hard. You can't come out here and physically perform the way you want to without that mental aspect being there. Without that, I'm really just a college football player."

The Steelers selected Worilds with the 52nd overall pick in the draft because they thought they needed some depth at outside linebacker behind Harrison and Woodley, the leading sack duo among NFL linebackers the past two seasons. They tried that in 2008 when they selected UCLA's Bruce Davis in the third round, but he lacked the toughness and aggression for the position and was cut after one season.

Such was the need for depth at outside linebacker that the Steelers selected Ohio State's Thaddeus Gibson, another converted defensive end, two rounds after Worilds.

Problem is, Worilds hasn't been on the practice field enough to make any real indelible impression yet at training camp.

Coach Mike Tomlin said after practice Tuesday afternoon that Worilds "continues to work his way back" from the injury. But he added that Worild's hamstring began to deteriorate toward the end of practice.

"He's been hurt the majority of camp but watching the guy in the OTAs, it seems like he will be a real good pass-rusher coming off the edge with power and speed," said Woodley, who, like Worilds, was a defensive end in college. "When he learns the system, I think he's really going to take off.

"He came from the same position I did. It's hard to come in and play outside linebacker right away. It's going to take time to adjust and learn the system so you can really understand it."

How long?

Harrison, a backup for three seasons before being named to three consecutive AFC Pro Bowl teams, said it takes a minimum of two years for a player to know what he's doing in the Steelers' defense.

"It slows down your play," Harrison said. "You can't play as fast when you don't know what you're doing. There's a lot more hesitation in your movements. It's something that's going to take time."

Still, Worilds said he is frustrated that his hamstring injury has limited him from at least demonstrating what he had learned to date.

"Especially these days," he said. "They're important as far as getting better. It's a little setback, but I'll be all right."


Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com .


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