The Pittsburgh Steelers will go through their yearly off seasonal ritual of cutting, signing, and restructuring in an effort to get under the salary cap for the 2014 season. There are numerous free agents of their own that the team will have to decide if they are worth pursuit. They also need to address some players who are on the verge of becoming agents and decide if they are worth extending or at least try to offer up pay cuts. Jason Worilds will be a free agent in just a few short weeks, Ike Taylor will be entering the final year of his contract.
Of the two, one’s stock was on the rise during the 2013. The other’s went down. One has been a proven vet, the other injury prone of late and inconsistent until the second half of the season. It’s a difficult equation the Steelers face over the next several months leading up to the draft and through the later spring and into the time before training camp. And while the Steelers would never face the decision on paper of choosing between Jason Worilds or Ike Taylor, I think it’s a ripe comparison to look at what is more pressing and what is more valuable to the team going into the next season or two.
Ike Taylor says that he desperately wants to retire a Steeler (oh one of those guys again). He’s so desperate that he’s willing to convert to safety since it seems he’s slowed down quite a bit as his productivity had quite the drop off in 2013. What Taylor doesn’t realize through his knee dropping plea to stay in Pittsburgh is that he would be one of the worst safeties to ever dress for the Steelers. Taylor can’t tackle, can’t run the field like a safety needs to, and would struggle in coverage across the middle. If Taylor stays, it’s on the outside or nothing at all. He has ensued that he’s willing to do what it takes (pay cut?) in order to stay in Pittsburgh. He is owed $7 million in 2014 and will be a whopper of a cap hit by taking up $11.94 million in cap space. Quite the expensive price tag for someone who couldn’t splash if he was in a 5 feet deep pool. Taylor’s saving grace was being known as a ‘shut down’ corner against the best receivers in the bizz, but even that has fallen apart as DC Dick LeBeau refrained from flip flopping his corners in order for Taylor to cover the best.
Jason Worilds wants to stay in Pittsburgh as well…. but as a starter. Worilds and Jones duked it out several times last season for the starting roll at the OLB position left vacant by a departed James Harrison. Worilds lost the starting job to rookie Jarvis Jones early in the season, but Worilds climbed back and bumped Jones from the starting roll. In a five week period, Worilds collected 5.0 sacks and 28 tackles along with tons of pressure on opposing QB’s. The surprising thing was that he achieved that from the left side while he covered for LaMarr “Where’s the Old Country Buffet” Woodley. Worilds has shown that he is better suited for the left side. But would the Steelers be willing to kick Woodley to the curb in order to sign Worilds. That’s what would have to happen because Worilds wants to start. And, with Jarvis Jones also performing much better at the end of the season (and is ‘the future’ for the defense), in no way could the Steelers sign Worilds to a new contract and agree to just hand him over the starting job over Jones.
So if you had to decide between the two defensemen, would you stick with Taylor and hope that last season was a fluke of a down season for the aging veteran? Or, do you cut Taylor and use a chunk of that savings to sign Worilds with a sizable bonus and guarantees of having the starting roll and let a rookie poised to step up rot on the bench? I guess there is a third underlying option here, and that is the Steelers cut Woodley, sign Worilds and keep him on the left side, start Jones on the right and still have enough money to keep Taylor while the develop a couple of draft picks at corner.
What would you do?