There is no secret about the Pittsburgh Steelers salary cap situation. The team needs to shave close to $20 million to sign their draft class, restricted free agents (6), and some of their unrestricted free agents (19). To reach that point, there will be some deals restructured and some players released. One of the biggest questions centers on the status of outside linebacker James Harrison.
While scouting prospects at the NFL Combine, general manager Kevin Colbert made it be known that the team has not entered into any discussions with Harrison and would not do so until after the combine. Reading between the lines, the Steelers are preparing to move forward without Harrison with Jason Worilds taking on a larger role on defense in 2013.
Some fans will say this move is a disaster. Worilds has been a bust since being drafted during the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft. However, they would be wrong. Yes, Worilds is not the dominant player that Harrison was, but he has grown in his three seasons with the Steelers and in many ways outperformed Harrison in 2012. During his three starts in 2012, he recorded 27 tackles and 5 sacks. By comparison, Harrison recorded 70 tackles and only 6 sacks in his 13 starts.
For his career, Worilds has recorded 81 tackles, 10 sacks and has forced one fumble; these numbers should rise tremendously with increased playing time. The 24-year old defender is still developing as a linebacker after transitioning from a college defensive end at Virginia Tech. Looking back at his scouting report from college, it appears to be on the money for what fans have seen in his three seasons. Since he is a tweener, he has the size and athleticism to succeed at outside line backer at the next level, but will need time to develop. He is tough and competitive with a solid combination of speed and agility off the edge that lacks experience as a stand-up performer.
During 2012, Worilds started to flash some of those abilities as he has become more comfortable inside the system. Now, he may not be James Harrison, but he is a good football player that may be ready to burst out of the shadows and take his game to the next level. At this point, Steelers fans can only hope that is the situation.
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