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To Sign or Not to Sign is the Question for Steelers and Jason Worilds

January 6, 2015
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To Sign or Not to Sign is the Question for Steelers and Jason Worilds

Jason-Worilds1

The Steelers entered the offseason sooner than they hoped or perhaps anticipated, but now they are faced with two major personnel questions.

The first is deciding for how much and how long they will extend the contract of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

The other is deciding what to do with outside linebacker Jason Worilds.

Worilds is an unrestricted free agent, and the Steelers have to decide just how much he’s worth if they want to re-sign him. If they don’t give him a new contract and Worilds elects to test the free-agent market, the Steelers could be left with just one of their top three pass-rushing linebackers — Jarvis Jones, who has only three sacks in 21 NFL games.

And that is not a good situation at what is considered the most important position in their 3-4 defense.

“We’ll see what happens,” Worilds said Monday, two days after the Steelers’ season ended with a playoff loss against the Baltimore Ravens. “I don’t know.”

Worilds was paid $9,754,000 this season — the average of the top 10 outside linebackers in the NFL — after the Steelers put the transition tag on him last offseason. They did so to prevent him from becoming an unrestricted free agent and ensure keeping him for one more year after they decided to release LaMarr Woodley.

The Steelers said they wanted to sign him to a long-term contract, but that never materialized because the sides were too far apart.

Now comes a new question: Will they try to re-sign him for a similar amount after Worilds registered 7½ sacks in 16 games and tied for the team lead with defensive end Cam Heyward?

Or will they offer him less and be willing to let him test the free-agent market, where Worilds possibly could get a better deal from another team?

“They’re going to do what’s best for the team,” Worilds said. “They thought I had the ability to do some other things.”

Worilds’ 2014 salary, fully guaranteed, ranked fourth among the league’s 3-4 outside linebackers, according to overthecap.com, a website that charts team and player salaries.

Of the three who ranked ahead of him in average salary for 2014 — Green Bay’s Clay Matthews ($13.2 million), Kansas City’s Tamba Hali ($11.5 million) and Washington’s Brian Orakpo ($11,455,000) — only Matthews had more sacks (11). Hali had six sacks; Orakpo, who played only seven games because of injury, had a half-sack.

Of the top 12 in average salary for 2014, only four others had more sacks than Worilds — Baltimore’s Elvis Dumervil ($5.2 million), 17; Philadelphia’s Connor Barwin ($6 million), 14½; Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs ($5.2 million), 12; and Cleveland’s Paul Kruger ($8.1 million), 11.

While Worilds’ sack total ranked tied for 17th in the AFC, it was sixth among the top dozen-paid outside linebackers in the league.

And Worilds said he isn’t asked to rush as much as some other outside linebackers in a 3-4 defense.

“When they tag you, whatever they pay you, you do what they ask you to do,” Worilds said. “I feel like my season was strong. The coaches feel like my season was strong, I took on more responsibility this year. Traditionally, in our defense, we cover more than other outside linebackers in other defenses.”

According to Pro Football Focus, Worilds took every snap in eight games and rushed 71 percent of the time. But, in the last five regular-season games, when he totaled four sacks, Worilds rushed 75 percent of the time. Compare that to Hali, who rushed 82 percent of the time.

“I was taught to be a team guy,” Worilds said. “As a rusher, me selfishly, naturally, absolutely, I want to rush every play. I feel like I can impact the game that way. It’s an honor for my coaches to think that highly of me, to give me that extra responsibility.”

Then, he added, “Sometimes, you wish they wouldn’t think that highly of me.”

 

 

 

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