Outside linebacker Jason Worilds was the Steelers' second round pick (52nd overall) in the 2010 NFL Draft. At the time, I remember thinking, "Jason Who?" After addressing the offensive line with Maurkice Pouncey in the first round, I was hoping the team would address the departure of Santonio Holmes by drafting a reciever such as Notre Dame's Golden Tate in the second round. I think it's safe to say that, with the additions of Emmanuel Sanders in the third round and Antonio Brown in the sixth round, the Steelers more than addressed their wide receiving corps in the 2010 draft.
Having said that, however, I was still a bit surprised to see the Steelers pick an outside linebacker in the second round, especially after acquiring LaMarr Woodley in that same round just three years earlier. And if they were going to go linebacker in round two, why not go with Pittsburgh native Sean Lee, who was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys later in that same round? As an inside linebacker, he could have been the heir apparent to James Farrior.
Just days after the draft, Lee's father came into my place of work wearing a Cowboys hat and exclaiming, "You guys are going to be sorry you didn't draft my son!"
Well, maybe Dad had a point. In two seasons, Lee has become one of the best young inside linebackers in the game, with 137 tackles and six interceptions. As for the Steelers, veteran Larry Foote is slated to take Farrior's place this season with no clear-cut heir apparent on the horizon.
Now, I'm not trying to turn this into a Lee over Worilds draft debate, because hindsight is a perfect 20/20. And any Dick Lebeau defense is always going to be predicated on the outside linebackers' ability to rush the passer. With James Harrison approaching his mid-30's, it's never too soon to find his eventual replacement. Besides, the 2010 Steelers were in much need of improved play on special teams after the disastrous '09 campaign, and coming out of Virginia Tech, a program known for its superb special teams play, Worilds seemed like an ideal candidate to provide help in that area.
But as Worilds approaches his third season in Pittsburgh, I'm beginning to feel a bit underwhelmed about his ability to someday take over for Harrison.
In 26 career games, Worilds has 55 tackles, a forced fumble and five sacks. Not horrible production considering he's playing behind Harrison and Woodley, arguably the best outside linebacker duo in the NFL, but he has yet to have that special moment that lets everyone know that he's arrived and that the legacy the Steelers have forged over the years at the position of linebacker will continue in the years to come. Worilds had several chances to shine last season, starting seven games thanks to injuries to both Harrison and Woodley, but he just didn't do much to stand out, other than two sacks of Browns quarterback Colt McCoy in a game late in the season.
Part of that may have been due to injuries of his own. Staying healthy has been a problem for Worilds during his short career, and he's currently on the PUP list while he recovers from offseason wrist surgery.
Shortly after Worilds was drafted, cynical fans started to compare him to Alonzo Jackson, the former Steeler linebacker who was drafted in the second round out of Florida St. in 2003 and only lasted two seasons in Pittsburgh.
At the time, I thought it was ridiculous that Worilds would get the "Alonzo" tag so soon. But with the team selecting linebacker Sean Spence out of Miami in the third round of the this year's draft, I think it's time for number 93 to get healthy and start to prove to the Steelers that he was a worthy draft choice and forever wipe away any comparisons to past linebackers who were second round busts.