Saturday, December 17, 2011
By Dan Gigler, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Consider for a moment, the public image of the Steelers' All-Pro outside linebackers.
James Harrison, public enemy No. 1 in the NFL. A menacing player, unapologetic for his violent style of play.
LaMarr Woodley, a gregarious, pass rusher who spits water into the air in pregame introductions like the professional wrestler Triple H.
Now, meet the man who charged with replacing them when they cannot play: Jason Worilds, a quiet, affable fellow who -- true story -- took his mother to his senior prom.
As the Sesame Street song goes, one of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn't belong.
Personality wise, perhaps.
But, while the second-year understudy out of Virginia Tech lacks the bluster of the other two, he approaches the game with a no-frills intensity, impressive work ethic and near-academic analysis of his assignments that has yielded three sacks and 24 tackles in four starts the past five games. That's in addition to being a special-teams ace.
Worilds will start again Monday night in place of the suspended Harrison, and, in doing so, will move to the right side of the field, after replacing the ailing Woodley. (hamstring) on the left.
Right to left, left to right -- what's the difference?
"My reads are different. People don't understand how intricate the game is pre-snap," Worilds explained.
"On any given play, I could either be rushing or in coverage. That can switch depending on where a receiver goes, what the backfield formation is, what was called, or what our middle linebacker might see -- he might put us in a different defense.
"So, if I'm thinking coverage, my coverage could go from being a slot safety to a zone, or to someone in the backfield or to somebody on the other side of the field."
Worilds continued: "It can go from all of that -- pre-snap -- to [instead] being pass rush. So now you've got to think, what's the down and distance? What have they run prior to [this]? What's the stance, the alignments and the settings of the offensive line? What's the running back looking at? What did you study in film? What's the personnel?
"And all of that," Worilds snapped his fingers, "is split second."
"You've got to make a decision. Not only are the other 10 guys on the field waiting on you to make a decision, the sideline is, the fans are, everybody in the world is ... And, if you make the wrong decision, somebody knocks your head off."
"It's definitely a lot of pressure," Worilds adds. "I live for it."
His zeal for the game has not gone unnoticed.
"I've been very impressed with the hustle plays he's made -- forcing fumbles, getting sacks," safety Ryan Clark said. "Those are the things we value here. It's not about what you can do, it is about what you're willing to do. He's shown he's willing to start at outside linebacker and go play special teams and, to us, that means a lot -- what you're willing to give to the team."
Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau also was effusive in his praise of Worilds.
"His effort has been tremendous," LeBeau said. "Jason's held up very well, so I'm sure that he'll get a couple tickets to the dance [against San Francisco], but he'll do fine."
Worilds' who leans on his brother, Tyshawn, an Air Force veteran of the Afghan war for support, has a more tempered view of his play.
"I won't say it's clicked on for me, but the light is definitely flickering ... you go from being a backup one week to starting, if you haven't been paying attention the weeks prior, you're lost, you're not ready for the opportunity.
"I've been saying for awhile my time will come ... I'm out there, just trying to make the best of my opportunity and I'll go from there.
"But, right now, all I have is Monday."