The Steelers drafted linebacker Jason Worilds in the second round of the 2010 draft.
By Gerry Dulac Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Jason Worilds has this problem. It is trying to find playing time at a position in the Steelers defense that is harder to crack than the DaVinci Code.
He is an outside linebacker, one with enough promise and upside that the Steelers drafted him in the second round in 2010. But he plays behind four-time Pro Bowler James Harrison on the right side of the defense.
If he gets moved to the other side, he is behind left outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who has had three consecutive seasons of double-digit sacks and is ready to get a big multi-year contract as the team's franchise player.
Worse, Harrison and Woodley, who have combined for 71 1/2 sacks since 2008, most by a linebacker tandem in the NFL, almost never come off the field.
"They are two great ones," Worilds said. "They were here before me, they were here first, they made names for themselves. They are great players and they're great mentors. Just to be a part of this Steelers linebacker lineage is an honor. My time will come."
The Steelers would like it to come soon. Worilds (6 feet 2, 257 pounds), a converted defensive end who played at Virginia Tech, will not supplant Harrison or Woodley any time soon. But that doesn't mean the Steelers wouldn't like to be able to get him some playing time, if for no other reason than to give their two starting outside linebackers an occasional rest to keep them as fresh as possible throughout the season.
"He's one of those guys we need to get in, especially early in the season," linebackers coach Keith Butler was saying Wednesday at training camp. "We want to make sure we're fresh at the end of the game, where most games are won. We hope we build enough confidence in him where he can do that. He needs to get our confidence and, if he does, we'll put him in there."
The Steelers talk every season about finding ways to spell Woodley and especially Harrison, who is 33 and coming off double back surgery. But they don't often do it because the players behind them haven't always merited much playing time.
And because Harrison and Woodley generate the most pressure on the quarterback -- a prime requisite for their respective positions in the 3-4 defense.
"They've taken a lot of snaps, especially last year," Butler said. "If we can take some of those snaps off them, get them rested and be able to heighten their performance in the fourth quarter, then that's what we need to do."
Worilds is trying to make that happen. He came to training camp 5 pounds heavier than last season and is noticeably stronger, something he needed to be to compete in the NFL.
But he has retained that quick explosion off the edge, which is why he was converted to outside linebacker. Worilds had 15 1/2 sacks in his career at Virginia Tech, but he also had 34 1/2 tackles for losses.
"The competition is bigger, so, naturally, you have to be bigger," Worilds said. "That's another good thing about me putting on this weight -- I can go out there and impose my will a little bit.
"I want to be able, when my name is called to go in there, to perform to the level of the guys in front of me. We'll see."
Worilds is one of those second-year players whose development was hurt by the lockout because he couldn't work with the coaches after his rookie season. But he has shown enough already at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe that Butler thinks he has made improvement from last season, when he played in 14 of 16 games, mainly on special teams.
"He's got a better idea of what he's supposed to be doing," Butler said. "It would have been nice to have OTAs and minicamps and the offseason with him so we can get some things down pat a little bit. Sometimes, he's still thinking a little bit when he should be playing. But I look for him to be better and be a contributor for us."