Steelers groom a different Worilds
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
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Rookie Jason Worilds interviewed with several teams prior to the NFL Draft that were impressed with his ability to play defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. So imagine Worilds' surprise when the Steelers selected him in the second round to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.

"I really didn't know until they drafted me," Worilds said following Tuesday's voluntary practice. "A lot of the teams liked me at defensive end. I was really torn. The only thing I did know is that I had the ability to stand up and play linebacker. But as far as expecting it, no. It was a shock to me and my family when the Steelers called."

Worilds didn't expect to hear from the Steelers because he was interviewed by more teams that play a 4-3 (including Indianapolis, Tennessee, Jacksonville and New Orleans) than 3-4 teams.

His track record at Virginia Tech for sacking quarterbacks led him to believe he could become another pass-rushing specialist in the mold of the Colts' Dwight Freeney, who depends on quickness and agility to pile up sacks.

Instead, Worilds (6-foot-2, 262 pounds) has altered his expectations in an attempt to become the next James Harrison.

That would have been ideal, to be in the type of system where they really like to get after the quarterback, but I really couldn't ask for a better place," Worilds said.

"I'm a competitor. As long as I can be in a position that's within my skill set, I want to play ball. Standing up, I didn't think twice about it. I'm playing for a prestigious organization. I'm ready to roll."

Worilds has been asked to do more than rise out of his three-point stance and play linebacker. He's lining up on the right side after manning the left side in college and dropping into pass coverage.

He's also playing a new position while also learning a new defense.

"It's not really that big of a change," Worilds said of playing right outside linebacker instead of left defensive end. "My feet are set the same left foot up, right foot back as if I was on the left side. Really the only thing I'm doing now is standing up.

"Seeing the game from the other side of the field is like looking at the sky from one side of the street and crossing the street and looking at the sky from the other side. Once I got acclimated to that, it wasn't a problem."

Still, learning to play outside linebacker has its drawbacks for Worilds, who said he has his good days and bad days attempting to figure things out.

"It's a new position. I'm learning what to expect and how to read certain keys and putting myself in the best position to make plays," he said.

"I'm trying to pick things up, just trying to retain it all. One day you'll learn something new and mess up on the things you learned the day before. It's a work in progress."

Despite his inexperience, Worilds has a couple of things going for him. He's playing behind Harrison, who has been named to the past three Pro Bowls, so he's under no pressure to step in and start right away. He also plays a position where he can learn from veterans such as Harrison, James Farrior, Larry Foote, LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons.

Following yesterday's practice, Worilds did extra running with Farrior, Foote and Timmons.

"They've been extremely helpful," Worilds said. "How many Pro Bowls in that linebacker corps? How many years as starters under their belt? They definitely help in bringing me along.

"Hopefully, I've been able to show a work ethic. I come in every day and try to absorb as much as I can. Hopefully, I've shown a hunger to get better."