Security has Jason Worilds more relaxed

PITTSBURGH -- Jason Worilds has always been polite and accommodating with the media. But the Steelers' outside linebacker showed a joking, playful side following an offseason practice that is not always apparent during interviews.

When asked how many sacks are possible this season after he finally broke out in 2013, Worilds did some quick -- and let's just say optimistic -- calculating in his head.

"Four hundred," he said.

Worilds then laughed along with the reporters who had gathered around him at Heinz Field.

A brief interview on Tuesday may have offered a portal into a more relaxed, more self-assured player. Not coincidentally Worilds finds himself in the unfamiliar but welcome territory of knowing that he is going to start next season.

The 6-foot-2, 262-pounder had been a backup who played both right and left outside linebacker in his first three seasons before another nagging injury sidelined LaMarr Woodley in 2013 and provided an opportunity for Worilds.

Worilds did so well playing left outside linebacker that the Steelers kicked Woodley over to the right side of the defense after he returned briefly from a calf injury. Then they picked Worilds over Woodley in March, opting to use a transition tag on the former and release the latter.

Worilds now finds himself as the leader of a young and largely unproven group of outside linebackers.

The fifth-year veteran has practiced only one time during organized team activities (OTAs) because of a calf injury. But that is just a precaution -- and it doesn't change the fact that Worilds is entrenched at one of the most important positions on the Steelers' defense.

“It's a good feeling to have that security,” said Worilds, who led the Steelers with a career-high eight sacks last season.

Whether Worilds will have long-term security in Pittsburgh remains to be seen.

The Virginia Tech product signed the one-year, $9.754 million contract that the Steelers had to offer after they used a transition tag on him and there are no guarantees after this season.

The Steelers would love to reduce Worilds' cap hit this year by signing him to a long-term contract. But they have to weigh that desire with how much they are willing to invest in a player who has 18 career sacks and has yet to perform at a high level over an entire season.

Worilds, a second-round pick in 2010, left no doubt that he wants to get a deal done that will keep him with the Steelers well beyond this season.

“You put so much time and effort with these guys,” he said. “You want to be there for the duration of your career so that would be extremely significant.”

When asked if he thinks it will happen, Worilds said, “You hope so. It's one day at a time. I think if I continue with that approach everything will fall into place.”