By Jim Wexell
Posted Apr 23, 2010
Steelers find necessary depth at outside linebacker in the second round and hope they caught lightning from a run-and-shoot bottle in the third.
PITTSBURGH – A couple of years ago, the Steelers weren’t sure the defensive end they’d been scouting could drop into coverage. So they went to his Pro Day and that’s the day they fell in love with LaMarr Woodley.
They drafted him in the second round and he became a Pro Bowler.
The Steelers are hoping the same scenario unfolds for Jason “All” Worilds, their second-round pick.
“He probably had one of the best workouts this year of anyone we’ve seen,” said Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler.
Worilds is a 6-1, 254-pound defensive end from Virginia Tech who led the nation with 38 quarterback pressures last season and projects to outside linebacker in the Steelers’ 3-4 scheme.
The Steelers drafted Worilds in the second round and followed it up by drafting SMU slot receiver Emmanuel Sanders in the third round.
Worilds adds needed depth to a position that – fortunately for the Steelers – has been relatively unscathed by injuries the last two seasons.
“We need some depth on this football team at outside linebacker,” Butler said. “And we need better special teams than we had last year, and we think this guy can help us in that area quickly.”
Worilds, coming from Virginia Tech, already has the Special Teams Gene. It’s coached into the players’ DNA there. But it's as a pass-rusher that Worilds’ future lies with the Steelers.
A two-time first-team all-state player out of Carteret, New Jersey, Worilds had 15.5 sacks, 75 pressures, 34.5 tackles for loss and caused five fumbles in 41 career college games.
His best season was his redshirt sophomore season in 2008 when he had eight sacks. That total dipped to 4.5 last season, and Butler explained that Worilds “got a lot of attention from different offenses he played against. A lot of people doubled him.”
Worilds’ best game may have been his last. He repeatedly pressured Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton and Worilds’ sack/forced fumble sealed a 37-14 Tech win in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Tech’s left defensive end was also a big reason Tennessee running back Montario Hardesty gained only 39 yards on 18 rushes. Worilds, in fact, limited opposing runners to just 44 yards on 117 run plays in his career, according to the Tech sports information department, that claims no ballcarrier scored against Worilds during his career.
That career was shortened when Worilds opted to turn pro after his redshirt junior season. The 22-year-old showed great linebacker aptitude at the combine and followed it up with an impressive Pro Day in which the 254-pounder ran a 4.51 40.
“Speed,” Butler said of Worilds’ primary asset. “But more than anything he was fluid.”
“I want to be the best,” said Worilds. “I just want to go in there and earn those guys’ respect, try to be the best that I can be, contribute in any way, and not get in those guys’ way; just be a sponge.”
In the third round, the Steelers drafted Sanders, a 5-11, 186-pound slot receiver who caught 98 passes for 1,339 yards and 7 touchdowns at SMU under Coach June Jones, a long-time run-and-shoot devotee.
Sanders appeared to be merely a small run-and-shoot receiver at the East-West Shrine Game, where he was knocked around by king-sized free safety Kam Chancellor on one deep pass and later fell down to cause an interception on another deep pass. Sanders, who averaged 13.8 per punt return last season, showed little return quickness in the Shrine game.
“He is a guy that without the return value is still highly valued at the receiver position,” said Steelers WRs coach Scottie Montgomery, who said that Sanders is “quick to the tuck.”
“He has the ability to catch the ball and get it north and south,” Montgomery said. “That’s something that I value quite a bit.”
Montgomery wouldn’t comment on Sanders’ two-game suspension in 2008, but Sanders explained – much to the Steelers’ PR staff’s obvious disdain – that he only was late to study hall twice and then was five minutes late to practice, thus violating the new SMU coach’s “three-strike rule.”
“The Shrine Game was a rough day,” Sanders explained. “At SMU I played in the slot, but in the Shrine Game we were all outside receivers. All the rest there had been outside receivers, but it took me a little while to adjust.”
Sanders ran the 40 in 4.44 (official) at the combine, but says he’s run as fast as 4.36.
“I like what Tomlin is about,” Sanders said of Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin. “People would ask me – because I visited eight teams – where was I on a comfort level? Where did I feel at home? I said Pittsburgh. I walked into the organization and it was very laid back. And I feel like that’s the kind of guy I am.”