PITTSBURGH -- It's been quite a ride for Jason Worilds, since the Pittsburgh Steelers heeded Coach Mike Tomlin's advice and selected the former Virginia Tech rush end in the second round during the 2010 NFL Draft.
Worilds was relatively underwhelming for various reasons going into this season, mostly because there were talented players ahead of him at outside linebacker and he underperformed when he wasn't injured and got a chance to play.
That's what makes this season so amazing for Worilds. He leads the Steelers with eight sacks, along with 43 solo tackles and two forced fumbles. He only had 10 total sacks in the previous three seasons and one forced fumble. So, is this a statement season for Worilds as his rookie contract is about to expire?
"It's been positive, thinking about where I came from, not knowing if I was going to play week to week or how much I would play,'' Worilds said. "So, it's been great from that standpoint, because I've come a long way. (But) I haven't really thought about it too much. There's so much going on. I've been through a roller-coaster since I've been here.
"And I learned first and foremost that you can't expect anything. And that even goes back to expecting to start at the beginning of this season. So, you can't expect anything until it actually happens. That's kind of been my approach, and I kind of take it day-by-day. And in a couple weeks, if things don't work out, I'll probably have a better answer for you.''
Worilds obviously was referring to the prospect of him starting for the departed James Harrison at right outside linebacker. LaMarr Woodley was entrenched as the left-side starter. Then, the Steelers surprised Worilds by selecting Jarvis Jones in the first round during the NFL Draft this past spring.
Worilds was asked if he believed he has gotten a fair shake from the Steelers. He repeated the question and posed it to the reporter, who responded that when the Steelers drafted a player at the same position in the first round, that should have sent a message to him.
"More or less, I would say that it definitely implies something,'' Worilds said. "Sure, but what can you do. You've got to keep playing, right? So, I'll keep playing, and we'll see how it goes.''
Worilds would have liked the Steelers to have locked him up with a contract extension before this season, but now he has a chance to test the open market.
"I honestly don't even know how it works,'' Worilds said. "I don't know how the market opens or anything about that. Can you tell me?''
Worilds was told that the Steelers have exclusive negotiating rights with him until March 1 or some date around then. After that, he would become a free agent. But the Steelers can negotiate a new contract at any time until then.
"I guess, when they call me, then we'll talk,'' Worilds said. "(But) you can't progress as a person or a player by holding that stuff inside. Holding that resentment and holding that anger inside of you, I wouldn't be able to go out there and play for my teammates if I was mad about the decisions that were made upstairs and how they affected me.
"So, I don't think there's anything you can do about it, and I know that I couldn't do it. So, all that contract stuff, I leave it to my agent, because I can't deal with it. (But) I've had my best season, I believe, because I've had more opportunities this season. So, it's a process, and I'll try to continue to play well through the final game this season, whenever that is.''
With Woodley scheduled to make a lot of money over the next couple seasons, the Steelers have to decide what they're going to do at outside linebacker. They can keep Woodley and his exorbitant salary and hope that he doesn't continue to get injured, an unlikely proposition if the past few years are an indication.
But if the Steelers release Woodley and clear some cap space, they could use that money to re-sign Worilds. It's part of what should be a busy offseason for the Steelers.