Linebacker Jason Worilds, blocked by a wrist injury and two Pro Bowlers in front of him his first three seasons with the Steelers, broke through with his best season in 2013, and it’s about to pay off for him.
Worilds is ranked as the second-best linebacker available in free agency, according to RotoWorld, a highly regarded site that covers pro sports, including the NFL, and released its ratings Friday.
The only outside linebacker ranked ahead of Worilds is Brian Orakpo of the Washington Redskins, a first-round draft choice in 2009 who has made three Pro Bowls.
Free agents can sign with other teams beginning March 11, but they can re-sign with their own team anytime before. Although the Steelers have not identified which players they would like to sign, president Art Rooney II, in a recent chat with Steelers ticket-holders, mentioned only one player when asked who he would like to keep.
“Jason Worilds is certainly somebody who came on and showed what he can do, particularly over the second half of the season,” Rooney said.
The Steelers have 21 unrestricted free agents, and 18 landed on RotoWorld’s rankings. Among their position players, Fernando Velasco ranked the next highest as the eighth-best center.
Emmanuel Sanders is ranked No. 9 at wide receiver, Jerricho Cotchery No. 17 and Plaxico Burress No. 44 among the 45 they ranked.
Ryan Clark is listed 10th among the 40 safeties with Will Allen at No. 34. Former Steelers safety Ryan Mundy is No. 23.
RotoWorld ranked LaRod Stephens-Howling as the 14th-best running back, Jonathan Dwyer as No. 15 and Felix Jones No. 20. Former Steeler Rashard Mendenhall ranked seventh.
Brett Keisel is 15th among the 35 defensive ends. It listed defensive end Ziggy Hood at defensive tackle, where they rank him 16th among the 40 on their list with Al Woods at No. 30.
David Johnson is listed at No. 20 among tight ends and Michael Palmer No. 25.
Stevenson Sylvester ranks 29th of the 30 inside linebackers on the RotoWorld list, but Jamaal Westerman is ranked five spots above him.
Of the five punters listed, Plum native Pat McAfee is No. 1, and two who played for the Steelers last season, Mat McBriar and Zoltan Mesko, are listed fourth and fifth.
Former Steelers offensive lineman Willie Colon is rated No. 3 among guards available in free agency. Also at guard, former Steeler Jamon Meredith is ranked 14th and Chris Scott No. 22.
Only three of the Steelers impending 21 unrestricted free agents are not on the RotoWorld rankings — Cody Wallace and Guy Whimper, and they do not list long snappers, so Greg Warren is not mentioned.
The Steelers have no restricted free agents this year.
Ed Bouchette: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @EdBouchette.