I really wish that James Harrison had signed the incentive-laden contract that Pittsburgh’s brass reportedly offered him this past spring.
Although “Deebo” was on the verge of turning 35 and had issues with his knee and his back, his play during the final seven games of the 2012 regular season did make me wonder if the veteran still had another year left in his proverbial “tank.”
Harrison broke out during that seven-game span and recorded 45 tackles, 5.0 sacks, and two forced fumbles. Despite his play down the stretch, both parties split, and the Steelers’ brass elected to go in a different direction at the right outside linebacker position with veteran Jason Worilds and rookie Jarvis Jones.
Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, the lack of pressure created by Worilds and Jones has been almost non-existent during the team’s 0-4 start to the 2013 regular season.
Between Worilds and Jones, both players have failed to record a single sack through their first four games, and neither player has consistently complimented LaMarr Woodley (who has three of the team’s four sacks) off of the edge.
I can understand that Jones must get stronger, develop more pass-rushing moves, and is still adjusting to the speed of the professional game as a rookie. Yet Worilds’ lack of production and inability to wrestle the starting job away from Jones has been ridiculous.
Rookies on Pittsburgh’s defense are almost immediately sent to the bench after they arrive in town. Worilds however could not beat out Jones during the offseason, and the rookie has earned a majority of the reps at right outside linebacker.
The outside linebacker positions are the premier pass-rushing spots in a 3-4 defensive scheme. Both Jones and Worilds have been counted on to supply heat off of the edge on the blind-side, and both have done little to harass opposing signal-callers through the first quarter of the 2013 regular season.
Worilds will especially need to “nut up” over the coming weeks, because he will be an unrestricted free agent next spring. With only 10.0 career sacks, 11 career starts, and 46 games under his belt, the former Virginia Tech Hokie has to play better to inspire faith from the Steelers’ brass (or other front offices around the league) that he is worth re-signing after his rookie contract expires.
The Steelers need both of their blind-side pass-rushers to begin bringing the heat off of the edge, and fast. Opposing quarterbacks have been too comfortable in the pocket lately, and opposing left tackles have had success keeping these two outside linebackers at bay.
Whether it is Jones, Worilds, or a platoon of both that gets the job done effectively at right outside linebacker, I don’t care. I would simply like to see some adequate pressure supplied over Pittsburgh’s final 12 regular season games.
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