in what's perhaps the biggest question this offseason for the Steelers, what should be done with outside linebacker Jason Worilds?
His internal value probably doesn't match his market value, which is to say he can make more money in a different scheme playing for a different team. The Steelers paid him $9.7 million under his transition tag for 2014, and got fewer sacks - 7.5 - than he did in 2013 - 8 - when he played in 792 snaps in 2013. He played in a team defensive-high 998 snaps in 2014.
There was a reason for that, according to Tribune Review reporter Mark Kaboly, who spoke with Worilds.
"A lot of the blitzes, I am like the decoy," Worilds told Kaboly. "I am comfortable with it, but it's different. It's all about the flow of the game. The thing about not being able to rush consistently is not be able to get into a flow. You aren't able to set up anything. It shows up in the numbers whenever I rush more, the more productive I am."
If Worilds was a decoy, it didn't appear teams fell for the Steelers' ruse often. Pittsburgh finished with 33 sacks on the year, one fewer than the team did in 2013, and pressure numbers seemed relatively flat - they had 51 quarterback hits and 178 hurries in 2013 and 68 hits and 164 hurries in 2014.
It was known Worilds had a deal in place after last season to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles, and until the transition tag was given to him, giving him a one-year guaranteed salary of $9.7 million and essentially blocking him from leaving in free agency, it appeared he was gone.
The team made LaMarr Woodley a post-June 1 release, effectively shaving off some of his cap hit and moving it into this season, which gave the Steelers a temporary jolt of cap space (while moving $8.5 million in dead money to this year's cap), and opened up what was thought to be the future for the outside linebacker position.
At least temporarily.
Worilds would start at the team's left outside linebacker position - Woodley's old spot - and Jarvis Jones, the second year former first round draft pick would start on the right side. Jones was injured in Week 3 and would miss most of the season after undergoing surgery to repair his right wrist. The Steelers signed 35-year-old James Harrison before their Week 4 game, and Harrison would end up with 5.5 sacks in 11 games.
Worilds, apparently used to draw protection away from other areas on the field, was an expensive decoy, if that was the case. While the Steelers don't have his salary on the books, they don't have his position on the depth chart filled either. He would tell Kaboly it's too early in the process to determine whether the Steelers will make a competitive offer for the former second round pick out of Virginia Tech, but with no depth at the position - they currently don't have another starter opposite Jones signed - it would make sense if the Steelers wanted to find a way to keep him.
They just may not be able to afford to pay another decoy.