It has been three seasons since Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley has completed a season in which he started all sixteen games. Woodley has suffered from one injury after the next with his lower body that has caused the former Pro Bowler to miss 14 games over the three-year span. Woodley’s productivity has also declined as he has not recorded a double-digit sack season since 2010 where he started every game with the black and gold. While Woodley has been nursing injuries, the Steelers watched a rising star come into his own in 2013.
Jason Worilds led the Steelers in sacks in 2013 by bringing down the quarterback eight times along with 21 hurries. Worilds really turned it up late in the season playing Woodley’s position on defense. The 25-year old pass-rusher recorded just one sack in the first eight games of the season but finished the year with seven more and 44 tackles. Over the course of the season, Worilds obviously proved to be the better player at left outside linebacker. When Woodley went down with two calf injuries, Worilds stepped in and played fierce.
Worilds will be an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of the 2013 season while Woodley is signed through 2016. The tight budget in the salary cap is forcing the Steelers to make a decision on either letting Worilds walk or getting rid of Woodley. Woodley would cost the Steelers $14 million in dead money if they decided to release the 29-year old linebacker — making the Steelers’ decision even harder to make when he is owed so much cash.
Time will tell if the Steelers will bring back Worilds or not. Keep an eye on little things the organization does to save every dollar they have. For instance, Brett Keisel, Ryan Clark, and Emmanuel Sanders are not expected to return in 2014 which will free up a little salary cap space. The offseason is where you build and maintain your team, and the Steelers must do that in 2014.