It is rare for a rookie to start so soon in Dick LeBeau’s complex defense, and Jones’ ascension seemed to add to the writing on the wall that this will be Worilds’ last season on Pittsburgh.
The fourth-year veteran has never quite lived up to expectations since the Steelers passed on players such as Sean Lee -- the former Penn State star grew up in Pittsburgh and has blossomed into a Pro Bowl-caliber linebacker in Dallas -- in the second round of the 2010 NFL draft.
And the Steelers did not sign Worilds to a new contract before the season even though he is in the last year of his deal.
But don’t tell LeBeau that Worilds has been a disappointment. Consider his response when asked if Worilds played his best game as a Steeler last Sunday when he registered five tackles and a sack in a 19-6 win over the Jets.
“If you look at the video you will see that Jason played pretty dag gone well last year,” LeBeau said of Worilds, who started three games in 2012 and recorded a career-high five sacks. “He showed up on the sack (against the Jets) and that gets you noticed, but a lot of times it’s what you do at the point of attack and the effort that you give to get the other guys around you free. Jason has always been excellent at that. He is a good, growing young player. We are glad we got him.”
LeBeau’s praise indicates that Worilds could still be part of the Steelers’ long-term plans. He has played well enough that coach Mike Tomlin has stuck with a three-man rotation at outside linebacker, and the Steelers always need depth at the position.
In 2008, they took an outside linebacker in the third round of the draft even though James Harrison had emerged as a Pro Bowler in his first year starter and it was clear that LaMarr Woodley would shine once given the opportunity to start.
Bruce Davis never panned out for the Steelers, but their selection of the former UCLA star underscored how important outside linebacker is in a 3-4 defense.
And it sure sounds like LeBeau would like Worilds to remain a Steeler beyond this season.
“I think outside linebacking situation with (Jones and Worilds) and the other guys that we got, we are going to continue to build and be OK,” LeBeau said.