Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Jason Worilds was expected to be an in-demand free agent this offseason.
That was before the Steelers slapped the transition tag on him and Worilds decided to sign it before free agency began. Outside of a trade, this means that Worilds will be playing for the Steelers in 2014. He may negotiate a new long-term contract or he will play under the tender, but either way he will remain in Pittsburgh.
Worilds was a second-round pick in the 2010 draft.
He had 10 combined sacks over his first three seasons while playing a limited role. When the Steelers selected Jarvis Jones in the first round of last year's draft, it was thought that Worilds' role would remain limited.
However, through a combination of poor play from Jones and LaMarr Woodley's continued fall from grace, Worilds started 11 games in 2013.
In those 11 starts, 15 total appearances, Worilds managed to rack up eight sacks, 63 tackles and two forced fumbles. It was a career year for the then 25-year-old outside linebacker. He played both right and left outside linebacker and his play remained consistent.
Worilds is officially listed at 6'2" and 262 lbs. He has a decent burst off the line of scrimmage, but he is not one of the fastest pass rushers in the NFL. His size is adequate, but his strength isn't overwhelming. Worilds is an average athlete in relation to other edge defenders in the NFL.
Because he is not Aldon Smith or J.J. Watt physically, it's important to understand how good Worilds actually is.
We can't presume that he is a star because even his peak in production wasn't that high. He doesn't have a track record of prolonged success to erase any doubts and he had his best season in a contract year for an average defense.
Worilds had eight official sacks in 2013.
None of those sacks were half sacks, so he took the quarterback to the ground eight times in total. He had two multiple sack games, so that means he had nine games without a sack during the regular season. He didn't play in Week 17.
The below chart breaks down who Worilds beat and how he beat them.
Who and How.
Timestamp Players Beaten Speed Rush Bull Rush Other
NYJ, Q2 10:41 Bilal Powell No No Strength against bad block
NE, Q1 11:01 None No No No
NE, Q3 03:15 Nate Solder Yes No No
DET, Q3 11:13 None No No No
BAL, Q1 09:54 Ray Rice No No Strength against bad block
BAL, Q2 04:27 Michael Oher Yes No Dip
MIA, Q2 13:18 None No No No
GB, Q2 12:33 None No No No
Analytical Analysis Through NFL.com
Not only did Worilds not beat many high quality offensive linemen, he didn't beat many offensive linemen at all.
Worilds beat four players in total on his eight sack plays. One of those was Nate Solder, the New England Patriots' very talented left tackle. The other was Michael Oher, one of the worst starting right tackles in the NFL last season.
On two other plays Worilds beat Ray Rice and Bilal Powell. Running backs. Powell and Rice both made very pathetic attempts to block Worilds in space as they dived at his feet. Worilds was able to easily brush them off to continue towards the quarterback.
Understanding how Worilds got to the quarterback explains his value. It doesn't take an exceptionally talented player to take advantage of a well-timed blitz or offensive dysfunction. It takes a star player to continue to produce even while being faced by high-quality offensive linemen or double teams.
Worilds was given a clean route to the quarterback on two occasions because of well-executed stunts. For another he was able to tackle Ryan Tannehill after a botched snap on a running play. The final of his eight sacks came when he dropped into coverage and Tom Brady scrambled out of the pocket.
A large percentage of the sacks Worilds got in 2013 were plays that you would expect an average linebacker to make. They were the kind of plays that couldn't be created by the defense without some mistake(s) from the offense.
When you watch a player such as Robert Quinn or Robert Mathis take down the quarterback, they do it in such a way that it's very difficult for the offense to stop them. That is not what Worilds brings to your defense.
The Steelers will either pay Worilds a huge salary this year or they will heavily invest in him on a long-term deal. They are paying the price of a star pass rusher for a player who doesn't perform like one.
Timestamp Players Beaten Attacks Ball? Time Elapsed Yards
NYJ, Q2 10:41 Bilal Powell No 3.0 10
NE, Q1 11:01 None No 5.1 2
NE, Q3 03:15 Nate Solder No 3.1 9
DET, Q3 11:13 None No 3.3 11
BAL, Q1 09:54 Ray Rice No 3.0 6
BAL, Q2 04:27 Michael Oher Yes 3.0 8
MIA, Q2 13:18 None No 3.1 7
GB, Q2 12:33 None No 3.2 3
Average .5 .125 3.35 7
Analytical Analysis Through NFL.com
As the above chart shows, Worilds didn't have a single sack that took less than three seconds. His 3.35 second average per sack isn't what you'd expect from an above average pass rusher in today's NFL.
Worilds did have a stretch during the season when he was getting pressure on the quarterback, but that pressure came against less-than-stellar offensive line and quarterback combinations. Pressure for an edge rusher in today's NFL also isn't as valuable as it used to be.
The better quarterbacks in the league are much more adept at adjusting to edge pressure than they are pressure up the middle. If you're not sacking the quarterback, your pressure can easily be nullified by a quick release from a pocket passer or by a more athletic quarterback who can scramble or extend the play comfortably.
Jason Worilds isn't necessarily a bad player.
He is not a great run defender and he has a limited pass-rushing skill set. The Steelers have simply been too desperate to retain him and in doing so have given up all their leverage in contract negotiations. With over $9 million already guaranteed for Worilds, he has no motivation to settle for a team-friendly deal.
The Steelers made a tactical error by investing so heavily in an average outside linebacker.