Through 11 games of the season, there hasn’t been too many bright spots on the Pittsburgh Steelers defense to get excited about.
That being said, the play of outside linebacker Jason Worilds the past two weeks has certainly been a positive.
Coming into the season the chance of Worilds having a long-term future in a Steelers uniform seemed rather slim.
Given his injury history, impending free agency and the fact that the team drafted Jarvis Jones in the first round this year seemed to all but seal his fate in Pittsburgh.
However the dominance as a pass rusher that the fourth-year pro has shown the past couple of weeks it makes it look like Worilds could have a home in Pittsburgh for a while.
The Virginia Tech product followed up an impressive effort against the Buffalo Bills in which he recorded seven tackles, a sack and four quarterback hurries with a team-high six quarterback hurries on Sunday, often pressuring both Cleveland quarterbacks into rushed throws.
It’s that type of pass rush the Steelers defense has been missing on a continuous basis for the past two seasons.
The bad news is that his recent play will attract other suitors, and his situation likely won’t be much different from it was for former Steelers cornerback Keenan Lewis last year.
Given the Steelers’ salary cap situation it may be tough to keep Worilds in a black-and gold uniform, especially when you consider the fact that a good bit of money at the position is already tied up with Jones and LaMarr Woodley. And while Worilds’ play recent play could make Woodley expendable, chances are Woodley isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Considering the amount of times Woodley has restructured his contract, he is almost impossible to cut. He has the second-highest “dead money” total in 2014 at $19.76 million, and $14.2 million in 2015.
You can make the case that Worilds has had more success the past two weeks than he has had his entire career combined to this point and the Steelers will have to tread cautiously in paying him. You can also make the case that his role in this defense long-term is as a backup to Jones and Woodley, in which it’s also a case of the Steelers needing to be careful on how much they pay him.
However, at the end of the day it’s a situation where pass rushers get paid good money. Worilds likely earned himself a good chunk of change the past two weeks.
The only question remaining is which team will be writing the check.