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Steelers Linebacker Jason Worilds Gets On With His Life

There was a lot of hand-wringing this winter over Jason Worilds.

It became increasingly clear that the Pittsburgh Steelers weren’t going to re-sign the outside linebacker. Would it be a mistake to let him go?

Turns out that it would have been a huge mistake for the Steelers, or any other team, to sign Worilds. They would have thrown a lot of money at a guy who no longer has a desire to play football.

While the Steelers and their fans held their breath hoping that Troy Polamalu would retire so the team wouldn’t have to release him, it was the 27-year-old Worilds who announced his retirement in the middle of the night.

The stunning news came early Wednesday morning, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Worilds led the Steelers in sacks in each of the last two seasons. The Steelers applied the transition tag and paid him nearly $10 million in 2014. He could have signed a contract worth many times that amount. Pro Football Talk ranked him as the No. 11 free agent on the market, one spot ahead of DeMarco Murray.

Sure, Worilds earned enough money from the Steelers last season alone to not have to work again in his life if he doesn’t want to. But he passed up “Wolf of Wall Street” money.

He could have pretended he still wanted to play the game and signed that mega-contract. But without enough passion for the game to consistently fight his way past offensive linemen, he’d have been a colossal free-agent bust. He’d have been released after a year or two, then laughed his way to the bank.

From the little that we know about Worilds, he seems too principled to do that. If anything can be gleaned from Dejan Kovacevic’s column on DK on Pittsburgh Sports, it’s that religion and loyalty to the Steelers could have played a role in Worilds’ decision.

It seems Worilds valued faith over money, although he made enough of the latter to not really have to choose between the two. There’s also the possibility, and this is pure conjecture, that Worilds wanted to stay in Pittsburgh so badly that he chose to retire instead of playing somewhere else.

In an interview with Kovacevic, Worilds cited the relationships he’s developed in Pittsburgh and said that people were more important than money.

Seems like a guy who has his head screwed on right.

Maybe Worilds was just too nice a guy, too civilized to appear in the nightmares of opposing quarterbacks. Worilds was a decent player, but Steelers teams that win championships always have had that pass rusher who can scare ghosts off the Titanic, and Worilds just wasn’t that guy. He wasn’t going to follow in the lineage of Greg Lloyd, Jason Gildon, Joey Porter and James Harrison.

The prime of Worilds’ short career came in the second half of the 2013 season, when he had seven sacks in his last eight games. With Worilds finally chasing quarterbacks the way the Steelers envisioned when they took him in the second round of the 2010 draft, the Steelers surged from 0-4 to within a Ryan Succop field goal of the playoffs.

And that’s just it. The Steelers almost made the playoffs in 2013. There’s been too much “almost” in the Steelers narrative over the past four years, and from a football standpoint it parallels Worilds’ development.

After going from two sacks as a rookie to three in 2011 to five in 2012 to eight in 2013, Worilds leveled off and had 7.5 in his first year as a full-time starter. He was costing the Steelers more than $1 million per sack.

The Steelers appeared ready to move on without Worilds and find another way to restore the ferocity of their pass rush. Now they can do it knowing they really had no choice. There will be no “what-if”s.

Worilds is moving on, too. He had a job for a few years and made enough money doing it to retire at 27. He never won a Super Bowl, but so far he seems to be winning at life.

He’s no Jordan Belfort.

Follow Mike @Steel_Tweets

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