It's fair to wonder whether the Steelers knew outside linebacker Jason Worilds was considering retirement as a path during his brief venture into free agency.
That wouldn't have changed any alleged offer they may or may not have given to their starting left outside linebacker, but it could explain why no deal was signed.
Dejan Kovacevic of DK on Pittsburgh Sports has provided some of the best insight on Worilds and his as well as the team's situation this offseason. This entire column paints a picture of a conflicted Worilds, a man who, according to Kovacevic, "...achieved a powerful realization, driven in large part by a push to give himself to his faith."
Kovacevic also pointed out Worilds' agent, Jason Bernstein, began telling teams his client was at a crossroads in terms of his career. While that likely won't be understood by fans fully, Worilds, at 27 years of age, may simply have felt less passion for the game than needed to become the kind of player he could have been.
It leaves us to wonder whether that was a part of his disappointing 2014 season. He wasn't a terrible player, but based on the last seven games of the 2013 season, when he was whipping opponents like they were standing still, fans hoped he was the next big Steelers' pass rusher.
A second-round draft pick in 2010, one who reportedly was the apple of Mike Tomlin's eye (the allegation is Tomlin remained firm in his demand to select Worilds over, among others, Penn State's Sean Lee, a Pittsburgh product and at the time a logical candidate to replace the aging James Farrior). Worilds didn't amount to what fans hoped he would, and that speaks to a reasonable assumption as to why his playing career is over.
Maybe he just didn't want it all that much.
One of the thousands of people who tweeted out Worilds' retirement announcement was former Steelers running back Baron Batch. Those who continue to follow him see the opposite of the ex-football player stereotype. Batch is heavily invested in art (having taken on the Twitter name "The Artist"), and tweets frequently about his decision to re-invent his career.
Batch never had the talent Worilds did, and he played until he was released by the Steelers. It's fair to question whether he had any other offers and if he would have taken one if it was given to him, but he looks farther down the road. He feels his life's work is that of an artist, not of a football player.
We shouldn't suggest we know more than they do about what they do with their lives. In fact, we should consider it a stroke of good fortune. As Kovacevic points out, the Steelers should feel lucky. Imagine if they offered him a contract he couldn't refuse. Or if Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, the man who coached Worilds in Pittsburgh his entire pro career, locked his Hall of Fame eyes on Worilds and asked him to run with the Titans.
He may not have been able to refuse. And whichever team it was would be left with a very expensive player who could only dig as deep as his draining well of passion would allow.
In the end, he made a personal decision. His choice was the selfless one. He could have pocketed a signing bonus of $11 million and planned his exit strategy two years down the line, leaving a team with huge salary cap implications that would end up costing other players their jobs.
For that, we applaud Worilds. Many fans may not see it that way, and his name will likely be forever associated with one of the most unexpected retirements in league history but when that well is empty, it can't be refilled.
The biggest contract in free agency history wouldn't change that.