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Pittsburgh Steelers have to do better job of drafting outside linebacker prospects

The Pittsburgh Steelers have yet to sign an outside linebacker in free agency and they lost the chance of bringing back Jason Worilds when he announced a surprise retirement earlier this week.

Outside linebacker will be one of the Steelers’ biggest needs in the 2015 NFL draft even if they address the position once the first wave of free agency ends. The Steelers' record of drafting outside linebacker prospects has been mixed under coach Mike Tomlin and general Kevin Colbert and that is probably charitable.

Here is a look at the players the Steelers have drafted as outside linebackers since 2007.

2013 -- Jarvis Jones, first round: The 17th overall pick of the draft has just three career sacks but he lost most of last season after dislocating his wrist in the third game. It is way too early to call Jones a bust and the Steelers were encouraged by what Jones showed in 2014 before getting hurt. The Steelers need the former Georgia All-American to take a major step forward next season – and to stay healthy – after managing just 33 sacks as a team in 2014.

2011 -- Chris Carter, fifth round: The Fresno State product never developed into anything more than a special-teams player in three seasons with the Steelers. Carter did not record a sack for the Steelers and did not survive their final preseason cuts last season. Carter was undersized but it’s hard to fault the Steelers for taking a chance on him. What stings is that Pernell McPhee went three picks later to the Baltimore Ravens. McPhee recorded 7 ½ sacks last season and just cashed in, signing a five-year contract with the Chicago Bears that could be worth close to $40 million.

2010 -- Worilds, second round: Worilds led the Steelers with 15 ½ sacks over the last two seasons and seemed poised to cash in after the Steelers let him hit the open market. But Worilds retired to pursue a religious calling, leaving the NFL a week after he celebrated his 27th birthday. Worilds’ conviction is admirable and you can’t fault someone for putting his religious beliefs ahead of football. The Steelers have had a number of second-round busts. Worilds should not be considered one of them.

2010 -- Thaddeus Gibson, fourth round: Gibson has been the ultimate journeyman since the Steelers cut him after he dressed in two games for them as a rookie. The Ohio State product has spent time on the 53-man roster or practice squad of eight NFL teams and is currently with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the Canadian Football League.

2008 -- Bruce Davis, third round: The Steelers missed big on this pick, which seemed like a head-scratcher at the time with James Harrison coming into his own in 2007 and LaMarr Woodley coming off a promising rookie season. Davis lasted just one season with the Steelers and dressed for only five games as a rookie. He did not record a tackle with the Steelers before they released him before the 2009 season. The Detroit Lions took defensive end Cliff Avril four picks after the Steelers selected Davis and he has 52 ½ sacks with two different teams.

2007 -- Woodley, second round: The second draft pick of the Tomlin era is seventh on Pittsburgh’s all-time sacks list with 57 but Woodley has a complicated Steelers legacy. The Steelers signed him to the largest contract for a defensive player (six-year, $61.5 million) in franchise history before the 2011 season. Woodley dominated that season, recording 7 ½ sacks in a four-game stretch but he was never the same after tearing his hamstring in a win over the New England Patriots. Woodley had trouble staying healthy after that, raising questions about his weight and desire after signing such a big contract. The Michigan product will try to resuscitate his career with -- who else? -- the Arizona Cardinals. The Steelers, meanwhile, are still paying for the mega-deal they gave Woodley. More than $8 million of dead money from that contract counts against their salary cap this year.