Is Pittsburgh Steelers OLB Jason Worilds the Next James Harrison?

By Jeff Hartman
Jason Worilds of the Pittsburgh Steelers
Getty Images

In 2005 when the Pittsburgh Steelers had just won Super Bowl 40, their linebacker corps was considered one of the best in the NFL. Joey Porter was the face of the defense and was a mainstay at the outside linebacker position. Upon his departure in 2006, Steelers fans were introduced to James Harrison. Harrison then became the anchor of the defense up until 2013 before he left Pittsburgh to join the Cincinnati Bengals.

Last season marked the beginning of an era that Steelers fans are not used to. In this new era, the team did not having a player ready to step in and be that mainstay at the outside linebacker position. After training camp, it looked as if Jarvis Jones and LaMarr Woodley were the two players who would be roaming the edge for the Steelers. However, when Woodley’s injury woes began, it was Jason Worilds who stepped in and turned heads.

In his brief stint as a starter (11 games), Worilds garnered a team-high eight sacks, two forced fumbles and 63 total tackles. Suddenly Steelers faithful were wanting to see Worilds in the lineup even over a healthy Woodley. When Woodley came back from injury, head coach Mike Tomlin placed Woodley on the opposite side of Worilds.

Now that the Steelers have placed the transition tag on Worilds, there is a chance he will be back on the outside wreaking havoc for the black and gold this season. But there is also a chance another NFL team overpays for him and he will be lining up for someone else this season. Nonetheless, if Worilds is returning to the team next year, is he the next James Harrison and the next great Steelers outside linebacker?

At age 26, Worilds is a younger option at the position, but similar to Harrison at this stage of his career, he has very little tread missing from his tires. After sitting behind Harrison and Woodley for years, Worilds struggled with his own injuries that kept him out of the lineup. Even at his age, he has only played in 57 games and only started 21 of those. In other words, Worilds has plenty left in the tank and could be in the prime of his career.

However, even with the injury history, Worilds proved that when he is placed on the left side, his natural position out of Virginia Tech, he can be a force to be reckoned with. The Steelers’ defense performed better when he was inserted into the outside linebacker position as he was able to put pressure on the quarterback and set the edge better than Jones and Woodley did the entire season.

It is now up to the Steelers to ensure that Worilds remains a Steeler for not just this upcoming season, but for years to come.

Jeff Hartman covers the Pittsburgh Steelers for and also contributes for the Penguins and Pirates. Follow him on Twitter @BnGBlitz and add him on Google+

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