It’s frustrating because you know you probably could have helped. When I was coming up, I was told that no matter what I did — good or bad, no matter how much I improved — I wasn’t going to see the field. That’s kind of discouraging. But you have to take it as an opportunity to better yourself in other ways. That’s what I was able to do.
I am not afraid to say that I threw up in my mouth after I read that particular quote by Jason Worilds. The fact that Pittsburgh’s defensive coaches could outwardly display that type of attitude towards their younger players is nothing short of disgusting. At least to me, relegating a player to the bench simply because of their age, not how well they can actually play and contribute in particular situations, is a horrible way to handle personnel at any level of football.
Of course, forcing young players, regardless of how much they can help the team, rot on the sidelines has been the norm during Dick LeBeau’s most recent tenure as the team’s defensive coordinator (2004-present).
Instead of pushing James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley with the motivated youngster, or even putting Worilds in the lineup during pass rushing situations with the two veterans, the coaching staff felt like it was in their best interests to let the former Hokie collect splinters on the bench during the first three years of his professional career.
Finally handed a chance to start on a regular basis, the 2014 unrestricted free agent has not disappointed this fall. The fourth-year outside linebacker leads the team in sacks (8.0), has been stout against the run at left outside linebacker and has emerged as an integral piece of Pittsburgh’s defense.
Sadly, the Steelers are paying the price for their mismanagement just like they did with Keenan Lewis last spring,. Lewis, who was relegated to special teams and the bench much like Worilds was during his first two seasons, finally blossomed into a solid nickel back in 2011 and a competent number two cornerback last fall.
Unable to see legitimate game experience until veterans he was obviously better than (William Gay and Bryant McFadden) left town, the majority of Lewis’ rookie deal (2009-2012) was wasted on the bench behind far inferior players due to the decision-making of LeBeau and other members of the coaching staff.
I am sure that there will be members of Steeler Nation who will piss and moan if Worilds leaves for greener pastures during the upcoming offseason. I however am not one of them.
Guys like Lewis and Worilds deserved better with this franchise, and the blame rests on LeBeau and the coaching staff who were either unable or unwilling to properly evaluate them. If Worilds want to go to a franchise where he will earn more money for his efforts, then I say more power to him to take his skill-set where he sees fit.
I will say that it is certainly nice to see how guys like Worilds had a positive attitude about sitting on the bench for no other reason besides their age and their defensive coordinator’s love affair with players in their thirties. Moreover, I am extremely impressed that Shamarko Thomas has held his tongue this fall with the slow-as-molasses Ryan Clark and Will Allen stuck in front of him on the depth chart.
If the Steelers wish to get better and expedite their current rebuilding process, nonsense of the variety which Worilds described above must end. The best player at each position should and deserves to play, regardless of age or chumminess with the coaching staff.
Wasting much of a promising player’s rookie deal while they are forced to learn an outdated and mildly antiquated defensive system benefits nobody involved, and I hope that Pittsburgh’s brass will realize this sooner as opposed to later. Otherwise, pending unrestricted free agents on the defensive side of the ball will continue to leave town after only a year or two of on-field productivity.
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