Few thoughts from me on the Pittsburgh Steelers 2nd round draft pick on Friday - Jason Worilds, the DE from Virginia Tech that will almost certainly be converted to OLB in Dick LeBeau's 3-4 defense.
- I like the fact that Worilds just turned 22 years old last month. He's a young pup with limitless energy on the football field. I've asked and dug around about the guy just a little bit and there seems to be one consensus: the guy gets after it and plays to the whistle on all plays, not just most plays.
- On the one hand, it's legitimate to question why the Steelers would draft an OLB in Round 2 when it's plainly obvious that the incumbent starters aren't going anywhere for at least another couple of years. LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison are undeniably two of the best in the business getting after the quarterback from the OLB position in a 3-4 scheme. Sure, Worilds isn't going to be a starter in 2010 for Dick LeBeau's defense, but I do think he has the potential to be inserted into some sort of rotation on defense by the middle of the season, if not sooner. I have no way to substantiate this hypothesis, but I truly feel like Harrison in particular could have benefited from some rest at various points last season. Like the warrior he is, Deebo played all 16 games for the Steelers in 2009. But I think he was playing through several injuries for much of the year. Add in the fact that the game of football seems to be officiated differently for him and it's easy to understand why his productivity tailed off a bit last season compared to in '08. This move gives much needed depth and insurance at the OLB position for 2010. There really was no next line of defense if either Woodley or Harrison were to sustain an injury. That's no longer as much of a concern, but more importantly, even if the dynamic duo do stay healthy, LeBeau can help keep them a bit fresher for late in the season by perhaps deploying Worilds in certain packages and in certain situations throughout the season.
- Let's not underestimate Worilds potential to be just as good as Woodley and Harrison though. This is just me making an observation with my eyes, but I really, really like his frame and what type of growth he still has in store physically. I mean, sheesh, the dude looks like he could be a slightly too bulky safety in the NFL. To me, the Steelers view him as a guy who is going to fill out nicely in his mid and late 20s - a player who will keep his motor and elite speed while bulking up after some time in an NFL caliber strength and conditioning program. I think this selection really is symbolic of Coach Tomlin's interest in getting much faster at certain positions, and continuing to flood the roster with guys who just love to compete and get after it on the football field. From everything I'm reading and have been told, Worilds is just that type of guy - a guy you want on your side when the going gets a bit tough.
- Special teams, special teams, special teams. It killed us last year. I am still searching for ST stats for Virginia Tech this past three seasons, but I am 100% expecting to see Worilds as being a substantial contributor on coverage units. Who knows, maybe he's even blocked a kick or two. I should hold off on this subject until confirming this, but it's no secret that VA Tech is known for their stellar ST play under Frank Beemer. One (probably very large) reason why the Hokies have been so successful in that department is because Beemer plays many of his starters on his ST units. So anyway, someone feel free to jump in if you're more familiar with their program than I am, but I'm digging around trying to confirm that he was productive in Blacksburg. Even if not, he will be in Pittsburgh. Quite sure of it. And he looks like he's got just the right make up and personality to make an impact next year in that department. Fast, fearless, and fierce.
So, while this definitely seems like a 'project' pick, a pick that will hopefully pay dividends 2-3 years from now, don't underestimate what this kid can do in 2010. The Steelers needed to get a bit faster and nastier on special teams and on defense frankly. I'm legitimately stoked to see him head hunt on special teams, and I think this guy just may be a natural born football player and competitor that will find a way to do his job at a solid level.