PITTSBURGH -- The highest-paid defensive player in franchise history, LaMarr Woodley said he will stay put at left outside linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers if he's able to return to the starting lineup this week after missing three games to a calf injury.
And despite increased production since moving to the left side for Woodley, fourth-year pro Jason Worilds will play on the right side when the Steelers (5-7) face the Miami Dolphins (6-6) Sunday at 1 p.m. at Heinz Field.
"I feel pretty good right now, but we still have a few days until Sunday,'' Woodley said. "So, we'll see how it goes up until then. I'll practice the rest of the week, and I expect it to get better each and every day. There's no adjustment, (and) I'd move if they asked me to move. I haven't been there since college, no, but it's pretty much the same thing.
"(But) I'll still be on the left and Worilds will be on the right. That's the way it is right now. So, I probably won't change. ... Jason Worilds has played both sides, so we would definitely have no problem switching if we had to. But that decision hasn't been made. Right now, I'm on the left, and he would be on the right. (And) Jarvis Jones would rotate in there at some point.''
Woodley, who received the richest contract in Steelers history for a defensive player with a six-year, $61.5 million agreement in 2011, has not played a full season since 2010. His production, obviously, has been limited due to various hamstring, back and now calf injuries that forced him to miss six full games in 2011, three in 2012 and three so far this season.
Woodley had double-digit sack totals from 2008-2010 with a high of 13.5 in 2009. He was on the verge of a record-setting performance with nine in 10 games in 2011, but hamstring problems in both legs cut his season and production short. Woodley has just five sacks in nine games this season. Worilds has started seven straight games (eight overall) with five at right outside linebacker after being replaced by No. 1 pick Jarvis Jones in Game 2.
Worilds injuries and inconsistent play has made him an underachiever during his previous three seasons after the Steelers made him a second-round pick in 2010. His play has picked up considerably the past three games, and Worilds now leads the Steelers with six sacks and 23 quarterback pressures. He also has two forced fumbles and six solo tackles (with one assist) on special teams.
"There's a lot of things that you might go through that you might not deem as right or fair, but you can't take a negative approach or attitude toward it,'' Worilds said. "This game is my passion. I love this game, and you have to respect that game. And when the opportunity comes and you get a chance to play, you need to go out and perform to the best of your ability.
I'd like to think that even in my past performances, I did pretty well, but I guess I didn't get as much notoriety for it because I played on the No. 1 defense for a few years in a row here. I'd like to think I had my hand in the pile to help the efforts. (But) I've had some injuries that have slowed my development and held me back. I've been able to get past all that and have a pretty good year so far.
"I appreciate all the help I've had along the way,'' Worilds added. "Guys like Arnaz Battle, Keyaron Fox, Will Allen and Jerricho Cotchery, among others, taught me about the game and how to handle yourself on and off the field. LaMarr and me, I think we help each other on the field. I'm telling him things, and he's not always listening to me. But it works.''
While $22.5 million of Woodley's contract was guaranteed with a $13 million signing bonus, he has a base salary at $3.6 million this year (cap hit of $9 million) and $8 million base salary (more than $13 million cap hit) in 2014. If he completes his contract, Woodley is set at a base salary of $8.5 million in 2015 and $9 million in 2016 before becoming a free agent in 2017.
Worilds is still on his rookie contract, a four-year, $3.305 million agreement. The deal contains $1.9 million guaranteed. His base salary this season is $630,000, and he is a free agent next year. Has his improved play of late allowed him to look ahead a bit to a bigger payday?
"No, it's way too early to think about the future,'' Worilds said. "What I've learned during my time here is that things will play out however they're going to happen. In situations like that, you can't think too far ahead. Anything can happen on a week-to-week basis, so I just have to focus on getting better every day. And I hope it's enough for them to want me back.''
Worilds probably wouldn't ask the coaches to keep him on the left side, according to Woodley.
"Jason Worilds is a man of not many words,'' Woodley said. "He don't say much. Sometimes, on the sideline when I'm over there talking with him, I don't know if he's listening. And he don't say much to you.
"(But) when both of the outside linebackers are playing good, like we used to have when I first got here, that makes it tough to pick on either one. Jason has really been stepping up the past few weeks, so it's going to be interesting to see what happens if we can get everybody going.''
First things, first for Woodley, he has to remain healthy.
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