Steelers rookie outside linebacker Jarvis Jones went down with a concussion in the Steelers' win over the New York Jets in Week 6. Veteran Jason Worilds took over the full compliment of snaps at the Steelers' right outside linebacker position.
The pair had been splitting them by and large since the start of the season.
Worilds, in the final year of his rookie contract, had an opportunity to build some space between himself and the hard-charging but technically raw rookie, against the team's biggest rival.
It was a win for the Steelers, and many words could be used to describe Worilds' performance, but "win" probably isn't one of them. He was held in check most of the game, even as the Steelers' defense swarmed all over the beleaguered running game of the Ravens.
Worilds' stats reflected those of the Steelers' defensive linemen - the guys who usually tie up blockers for the linebackers to get to the ball carrier. He had three tackles - two solo - none for loss and no sacks.
While Jones returned in Week 8, he had a limited amount of snaps, with Worilds still holding onto the starting spot and yeoman's amount of plays.
Jones looked lost in the Steelers' 21-18 loss to the Raiders, and word came down Jones would be benched - which is to say receiving even less snaps than he did against Oakland. That's pretty much no snaps at all, barring injury, equipment failure or blowout.
Worilds now has that slack available to make a push to retain the position for the remainder of the year. While Jones, the highly-touted rookie, will likely win the benefit of the doubt again - just like he did in earning the starting job in camp despite clearly being technically inferior to Worilds. That said, Worilds has the chance to make up the space between the two, but to do that, he's going to have to reach a level he has not yet obtained as a pro.
He's going to have to make plays.
Jones didn't make big plays in the backfield or anywhere else on the field, but Worilds hasn't done much of that in his three and a half years with the team. It hasn't been for a lack of opportunity; he's played a solid amount over the last two seasons due to injuries to LaMarr Woodley and former Steelers OLB James Harrison.
Worilds is going against one of the better pass blocking left tackles in the league, too, Nate Solder of the Patriots.
It's an important week of preparation for Worilds, as is any week with a player who doesn't have a contract next season. A big performance in this game, though, will all but assure he's going to be paid more than the league minimum next year.
The opportunity is in front of him.
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