While Steelers like Marcus Gilbert and Cortez Allen received long term deals in the off-season; pass rusher Jason Worilds decided to play out the year on his transition tag tender.
Early on, it seemed like the Steelers may have made a good move not giving him a huge amount of money because he was practically invisible for the first quarter of the season.
In the past two games the Steelers defense has started generating pressure, seemingly out of nowhere. Part of that is probably more blitzing and James Harrison getting in shape.
But I think the biggest reason is Jason Worilds is starting to warm up. Despite not getting a sack in either of the past two games, Worilds has generated a ton of pressure on the quarterback. He’s started getting attention from offenses, opening up opportunities for others along the front 7.
Several have pointed out this season that Jason Worilds has typically been a slow starter every season.
Three weeks ago I would have said the Steelers had an easy decision. Let Worilds walk, or sign him at a drastically reduced price.
Now, however, things get sort of tricky.
My guess is if Worilds keeps his current pace, and only finishes the season with something like 6-8 sacks, it won’t matter much in contract negotiations. Teams will be aware of the pressure Worilds brings without getting a sack, and if he keeps rushing like he has the sacks will come.
In short, that means his price tag probably isn’t going down in free agency.
The “late starter” label has been used mostly in defense of Worilds… but my question is, do you pay a guy a huge contract if he only produces half the season?
What if the Steelers get a lot of division games early on in the year? What if Worilds created havok against the Buccaneers like he did against the Colts? We might be sitting alone at the top of the division right now.
My point is, it matters that Worilds seems to disappear in certain games, even if the numbers on the season look impressive.
I’m posing a lot of questions in this article, but I’m not really sure I even have an opinion on what the right move is at this point.
It was pretty clear this past off-season that Worilds and/or his agent thought that he would be in high demand on the open market, and chose to hit free agency again this off-season.
If Worilds was humbled by a down season statistically I’d love to bring him back at a contract that also makes it possible to extend Big Ben and Cam Heyward next off-season.
If Worilds is allowed to walk in free agency the Steelers would be painfully thin at their most important defensive position. As we’re seeing with Cortez Allen though, that probably shouldn’t factor into their decision making.
If Jarvis Jones comes back from injury and starts to show that he looks like he may be the player they thought they were getting when he was drafted; then that could give the team a little more confidence in letting Worilds leave.
The good news is the Steelers still have at least 8 more games to see what kind of player #93 really is.