The release of veteran James Harrison has been debated and well documented all offseason with fans’ opinion on the situation pretty much split. The one thing that is certain is that Harrison is not going to be back for the 2013 season and Jason Worilds will have his shot at the starting job. Although I haven’t been the biggest fan of Worilds since the team drafted him in the second round of the 2010 draft, I have to admit he impressed me during the 2012 season. He seems to have developed against the run and has shown pass rushing ability in spurts. Technically Worilds was second on the team in sacks in 2012 but that really isn’t saying much when the leader in that category, Lawrence Timmons and James Harrison, only had six for the year.
Worilds has a huge opportunity in 2013 to prove he has the ability to be the future at the OLB position for the Steelers. The only problem is that like his former teammate Keenan Lewis, Worilds will become an unrestricted free agent the season after finally getting his shot. We’re all rooting for Worilds to have a breakout season and help the Steelers’ pass rush get back to what we all remember it being. However, if he does have that type of season, like Lewis in 2012, the Steelers may not be able to keep him when he becomes a free agent.
Unlike with Lewis though, the Steelers really do not have a clear backup plan in place in case they are unable to retain Worilds. The team obviously felt comfortable allowing Lewis to walk away because of what Cortez Allen showed in his limited times last season. Right now behind Worilds on the roster is Chris Carter and Adrian Robinson and while I am fans of both players, neither have really shown anything to say they should be thought of as anything other than backups.
With the 2013 NFL Draft getting closer and closer I have seen a multitude of mock drafts with Georgia’s Jarvis Jones going to the Steelers in the first round. If they don’t have Jones in the first round they have the Steelers going after a pass rusher with their second or third rounder. If a guy is truly the best pick at the time then I could see the Steelers going with a pass rusher however, if they really think Worilds is the future they could use those high picks on one of their many other needs. Not that you can ever have enough guys who can get to the quarterback but the team needs to get major contributors from this draft and you can get a pass rushing specialist in the later rounds.
If the team does go for an outside linebacker in the first two rounds that could mean they do not feel Worilds is the future or that they just won’t be able to pay him.