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Hawaii 5-0
05-11-2012, 03:47 PM
Talkin' Outside Linebackers: How Steelers Defense Remained Dominant With Instability On the Edge

by Neal Coolong on May 11, 2012

http://cdn2.sbnation.com/entry_photo_images/4002412/GYI0063229192.jpg

The outside linebacker is the glory hog of the Steelers defense.

Not that James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley don't deserve the praise they get, but their other front seven contemporaries are setting them up for success.

They're used to success. They've had a lot of it. But what the best tandem of 3-4 OLBs in the game haven't shared much together is injuries.

Harrison and Woodley missed a combined 12 games last season, more than one third of the Steelers' regular season contests. It was time for the glory hogs to give some credit back to their teammates, considering the Steelers produced one of their lowest sack outputs in many years, yet, still led the NFL in scoring defense.

What can they do about injuries?

Not much. as any middling Weekend Warrior can tell you, a popped hamstring like Woodley's isn't something that heals overnight. Due to the vital importance the hamstring has in explosive movement, it's very easy to re-injure. That was the case with Woodley, who was well on his way to another Pro Bowl appearance, even Defensive Player of the Year consideration when he began chasing Patriots QB Tom Brady out of the pocket for what seemed to be the 15th time in a Steelers Week 8 win. Woodley already had two sacks and was en route for a third when he pulled up while running, and put his hand on the back of his leg - the universal sign of a tweaked hammy.

He was never the same player the rest of the year. That injury occurred in wake of James Harrison's broken orbital bone, which he suffered on a hit from Texans LT Duane Brown (who is totally allowed to ram defensive players with the crown of his helmet because he plays on offense, according to the league that's pushing the safety agenda as if scores of future lawsuits depended on it). Harrison missed four games, and while he came back to play outstanding football (Week 9 vs. Baltimore in particular), the missed time and the lack of help on his opposite side sent his sack numbers plunging.

One thing they can do is bring in depth to help pick up the slack when injuries happen. They talked to free agent Matt Roth recently, a guy who could play both OLB and DE for the Steelers, but optimism of his signing diminished when he left town without a contract. He still could be in the fold, but either the offer or the player weren't good enough to make it official now.

Jason Worilds was neither great nor terrible, and middle-of-the-line isn't befitting the description of a glory hog. Lawrence Timmons chipped in time at the position as well, and didn't produce much, either. It will be critical for the Steelers to keep Harrison and Woodley healthy, to develop Worilds as a high-level contributor if not a spot starter, and to continue building depth within the unit.

Does the fact the Steelers kicked Roth's tires mean they've lost faith in Worlids or Chris Carter?

Probably not. Roth has played both OLB (in Cleveland) and DE (in Miami) in 3-4 defenses, and every team covets that 2-for-1 kind of player when filling out their rosters. The Steelers don't typically sign starters in free agency, but the best teams in the league find low-priced veterans to fill key positions of depth.

Their starters typically come from within. It remains to be seen whether Worilds or Carter are future starters, but keep in mind, Harrison was with the team for three seasons before winning a starting position and Woodley barely played his rookie year. If the Steelers were 12-4 with the league's top scoring defense while producing 35 sacks (tied for 17th in the league), imagine if they were able to get to the passer more often. Depth, as well as the development of younger players, is critical.

How does the importance of the OLB change in sub packages?

If anything, it becomes more important. Defensive priorities are usually based against the run. The outside linebacker becomes an edge rusher on passing downs, and oftentimes the OLB puts his hand on the ground when his team is in a nickel package. The Steelers will use Harrison and Woodley both standing up and in a three-point stance, and their pass rush angle can vary. The purpose, ultimately is getting pressure.

That pressure fell off quite a bit in 2011 from their output in 2010. The Steelers also had one of the lowest amounts of turnovers for a playoff team in league history. It doesn't rest entirely on the OLBs, but their primary role is to assert pressure. That pressure leads to turnovers, and it should come more often on passing downs than running.

With the amount of snaps the Steelers spent in sub packages last season, it stands to reason teams will throw four and five receiver sets at them often this year too. Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau will need to find a way to establish more pressure from the marquee 3-4 position.

Are there concerns about James Harrison's age?

Coming from someone younger than Harrison who's struggling to get through four softball games a week, sure, there are concerns. Very few have Harrison's work ethic, and I trust 100 percent in his ability to prepare his body for the rigors of a season, but the fact is we're simply not built to do what Harrison does for a living for a long time. Even the most well-conditioned humans on the planet start to feel their bodies betray them around his age. He shouldn't (and didn't) have a problem recovering from the broken eye socket, but his back will continue to be an issue.

It's also very difficult to get in game shape without playing the game. It's very likely they'll have Harrison on the same sort of pitch count they put Hines Ward and Aaron Smith at the tail ends of their careers, but you have to worry about whether that will take the edge of him. Keep in mind, too, with the injury and a suspension, Harrison missed five games last year. He took a lot less snaps than he had in the previous four years.

Will he continue to be a three-down player?

I think that's an overlooked question right now. We'd be talking about this far more often had the Steelers made a first or second day investment in an outside linebacker in the draft. An off-season can change lots of things, but I didn't see anything in Worilds or Carter that made me seriously think about the possibility of one of them subbing for Harrison in particular situations, but I can't say that scenario is impossible, either. Saving him a few plays here and there will help him be effective down the stretch - the time of the year when the conditioned players begin to really dominate their peers.

Harrison nearly pulled the second Ravens game out for the Steelers on his own last year. But he looked absolutely gassed on the final drive. It's purely speculative and hindsight is 20-20, but would he have been able to make one more play had he taken seven or eight less snaps? We'll never know, but it will be interesting to see how the Steelers approach Harrison's involvement this year. That isn't to say they need to do something, just that they might.

http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2012/5/11/3013728/talkin-outside-linebackers-lamarr-woodley-james-harrison-matt-roth#storyjump

El-Gonzo Jackson
05-12-2012, 12:31 PM
Worilds needs to take a big step this season. I honestly didnt see anything from him last season to hint that he will ever be as good as Clark Haggans. That IMO is kind of disappointing from a 2nd round pick.

FrancoLambert
05-12-2012, 02:34 PM
Worilds, Sylvester, and Carter all need to show their true value this year.
It's time to find out for sure if they were worthy draft choices.
Our depth at LB for the future needs to be established.
Harrison's age and Woodley's recurrent hammy are legitimate concerns.
This is going to be an interesting year for this group.

steeltheone
05-12-2012, 06:34 PM
Worilds needs to take a big step this season. I honestly didnt see anything from him last season to hint that he will ever be as good as Clark Haggans. That IMO is kind of disappointing from a 2nd round pick.

Very good point, i agree. Worilds looked pretty average to me, also.

Steelersfan87
05-12-2012, 06:58 PM
From an earlier thread:

Following the bye week, Jason Worilds started 5 of the last 6 games. He had 3 sacks, a forced fumble, and 27 tackles in those games. Including a 9 tackle, 2 sack, 1 forced fumble game against the Browns. That's more than just potential.

tanda10506
05-13-2012, 01:35 AM
Worilds played great and the numbers show it. He will be Harrison's replacement if he is still around when Harrison retires.

mikeyg
05-13-2012, 09:28 AM
Worilds needs to take a big step this season. I honestly didnt see anything from him last season to hint that he will ever be as good as Clark Haggans. That IMO is kind of disappointing from a 2nd round pick.

agreed - w/o SIGNIFICANT imporvlement, we can start to sound the BUST bell....

Steelersfan87
05-13-2012, 11:02 AM
Really? 27 tackles, 3 sacks, and a forced fumble in 5 games is pretty damn good. That's over 85 tackles, 9 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles rated over a full season. What he needs is to continue where he left off at the end of the year. Which he won't unless there's injuries.

El-Gonzo Jackson
05-13-2012, 11:35 AM
Worilds played great and the numbers show it. He will be Harrison's replacement if he is still around when Harrison retires.

Jason Worilds 2012--7 Games started, 27 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 0 passes defended

Clark Haggans 2002- 1 games started, 23 tackles, 6.5 sack, 2 forced fumble, 8 passes defended

Yes, the number show that even though Worilds started 6 more games in his 2nd year with the Steelers than Haggans did in his 3 rd year.......Haggans still was more productive playing behind Porter and Gildon, than Worilds who got more playing time.

Worilds might be the next Carlos Emmons, but not even as good as Clark Haggans.

Steelersfan87
05-13-2012, 01:07 PM
Uh, the stats I cited were only for the 5 games he started after the bye week. Worilds also missed 4 games.

1. 7 defensive snaps: 2 tackles
2. 0 defensive snaps: 1 tackle
3. 0 defensive snaps: 0 tackles
4. 0 defensive snaps: 1 tackle
5-8. injured
9. 65 defensive snaps (1st start): 3 tackles
10. 53 defensive snaps (start): 2 tackles
11. 55 defensive snaps (start): 6 tackles. 1 sack
12. 43 defensive snaps: 2 tackles
13. 69 defensive snaps (start): 9 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble
14.61 defensive snaps (start): 6 tackles
15. 62 defensive snaps (start): 3 tackles
16. 58 defensive snaps (start): 3 tackles

Haggans' 8 passes defensed in his 3rd year bests his next career best by 5 by the way, so that's hardly a reasonable basis of comparison. He also played in every game, though I doubt there were participation charts for a decade ago unfortunately. The fact that he could defend 8 passes indicates that he played a lot more snaps than 1 start would indicate though. He also had NO stats in the game he started.

According to profootball.scout.com, Haggans logged significant time after Kendrell Bell got injured, replacing Bell as the dime pass rusher. He was also the special teams ace, racking up tackles. More reasons that make comparisons between Worilds and Haggans arbitrary and silly.

"When the Steelers' plans to use Kendrell Bell as the rush end in the dime defense were waylaid with Kendrell's injury, Clark made the most of the opportunity, coming in at the spot and making some big plays and logging a significant number of QB hit/pressures. Clark signed a 1-year RFA tender from the Steelers and will stay with the team for 2003.

Haggans was the defensive end who played opposite Joey Porter at Colorado State, and the Steelers drafted him at the 5A spot in 2000. Till this season (2002), his roles have been as a backup LOLB and special teams player, but after an injury to Kendrell Bell in the first game, he has done an admirable job filling for Bell as the dime pass-rusher. He led the Steelers with 23 special teams tackles last year."

Whodis
05-13-2012, 02:37 PM
Worilds needs to take a big step this season. I honestly didnt see anything from him last season to hint that he will ever be as good as Clark Haggans. That IMO is kind of disappointing from a 2nd round pick.

The crazy part is he tore up preseason, making me think he would step right in and not miss a step. The front three getting younger will help the Lb's?

El-Gonzo Jackson
05-14-2012, 01:28 AM
The crazy part is he tore up preseason, making me think he would step right in and not miss a step. The front three getting younger will help the Lb's?

Uh, the stats I cited were only for the 5 games he started after the bye week. Worilds also missed 4 games.

1. 7 defensive snaps: 2 tackles
2. 0 defensive snaps: 1 tackle
3. 0 defensive snaps: 0 tackles
4. 0 defensive snaps: 1 tackle
5-8. injured
9. 65 defensive snaps (1st start): 3 tackles
10. 53 defensive snaps (start): 2 tackles
11. 55 defensive snaps (start): 6 tackles. 1 sack
12. 43 defensive snaps: 2 tackles
13. 69 defensive snaps (start): 9 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble
14.61 defensive snaps (start): 6 tackles
15. 62 defensive snaps (start): 3 tackles
16. 58 defensive snaps (start): 3 tackles

Haggans' 8 passes defensed in his 3rd year bests his next career best by 5 by the way, so that's hardly a reasonable basis of comparison. He also played in every game, though I doubt there were participation charts for a decade ago unfortunately. The fact that he could defend 8 passes indicates that he played a lot more snaps than 1 start would indicate though. He also had NO stats in the game he started.

According to profootball.scout.com, Haggans logged significant time after Kendrell Bell got injured, replacing Bell as the dime pass rusher. He was also the special teams ace, racking up tackles. More reasons that make comparisons between Worilds and Haggans arbitrary and silly.

"When the Steelers' plans to use Kendrell Bell as the rush end in the dime defense were waylaid with Kendrell's injury, Clark made the most of the opportunity, coming in at the spot and making some big plays and logging a significant number of QB hit/pressures. Clark signed a 1-year RFA tender from the Steelers and will stay with the team for 2003.

Haggans was the defensive end who played opposite Joey Porter at Colorado State, and the Steelers drafted him at the 5A spot in 2000. Till this season (2002), his roles have been as a backup LOLB and special teams player, but after an injury to Kendrell Bell in the first game, he has done an admirable job filling for Bell as the dime pass-rusher. He led the Steelers with 23 special teams tackles last year."

Thanks for stating nothing that isn't common knowledge about Haggans. Still doesn't change TE fact that Worilds hadn't done anything to show he isn't any better than Haggans...who was not a 2nd round draft pick. Worilds is looking like as big a reach as 3rd round reserve Trai Essex.

Steelersfan87
05-14-2012, 02:00 AM
A starting quality 3-4 OLB in the 2nd round is a reach? Interesting. I'm quickly losing interest and patience in this, so let's just agree to disagree about our evaluations of Worilds.

El-Gonzo Jackson
05-14-2012, 06:04 PM
A starting quality 3-4 OLB in the 2nd round is a reach? Interesting. I'm quickly losing interest and patience in this, so let's just agree to disagree about our evaluations of Worilds.

People on this site agree to disagree all the time. Its nothing that difficult. But, most can do it without having to post some kind of cyber tough guy act stating they are "quickly losing interest and patience in this".

I dont think Worilds has established himself as starting quality OLB yet. You think he has. See......we can establish that without the unnecessary drama. :coffee:

pancake
05-14-2012, 06:28 PM
I'm not ready to call Worilds a bust or a boom. He was injured last year, but he needs to answer the questions that surround him this year.

Steelersfan87
05-14-2012, 09:54 PM
People on this site agree to disagree all the time. Its nothing that difficult. But, most can do it without having to post some kind of cyber tough guy act stating they are "quickly losing interest and patience in this".

I dont think Worilds has established himself as starting quality OLB yet. You think he has. See......we can establish that without the unnecessary drama. :coffee:

"Tough guy"? "Drama"? All I did was point out that your insipid comparisons and knee-jerk player evaluations were wearing thin.

El-Gonzo Jackson
05-14-2012, 10:36 PM
I am quickly losing interest and patience with this.

Jason Worilds is the next great Steeler LB. He will follow in the footsteps of other high round picks, because the Steelers never miss on OLB prospects. Huey Richardson, Alonzo Jackson, Bruce Davis can all vouch for that.

The Steelers are fine and deep at OLB. :toofunny:

Steelersfan87
05-14-2012, 10:49 PM
Worilds has already had success starting in this league. That is all that needs to be said. He finished the season on a high note and should continue to get better this season back at full strength and a full offseason. Hopefully he doesn't have to make any starts this year though. But if he does, the Steelers will be fine.

El-Gonzo Jackson
05-14-2012, 10:57 PM
I HOPE that our 2nd round pick would be contributing by his 3rd season. If anything, Worilds needs to show that he can take Harrison's job in 2013, which would be his final year of his contract.

Otherwise, the Steelers should have drafted somebody like Sean Lee, Pat Angerer, Jared Veldheer or Brandon Spikes who could have been contributing in positions that there were no depth at.

Steelersfan87
05-14-2012, 11:07 PM
He was contributing in his rookie season, so what is your point? It would be bad if he's starting because that would mean that something happened to James Harrison or LaMarr Woodley, who are both Pro Bowl players. Stop judging players based on where they were drafted, who else could have been drafted, and other extraneous things. Stuff like that is on the team, not the player, and it's not fair for the player.

Hawaii 5-0
05-14-2012, 11:15 PM
this article is from 3 weeks ago but I thought it was a pretty good one:


State Of The Steelers Linebackers Could Worilds Really Be Slated To Move Inside?

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012 by Dave Bryan

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Jason Worilds is about to enter his third season since being drafted in the second round of the 2010 NFL draft. Several in Steeler Nation are still struggling to understand why inside linebackers Sean Lee or Navarro Bowman weren't the pick instead of Worilds. Linebackers coach Keith Butler was asked that very question during his press conference following the selection of Worilds and said, "We like those guys. We like Bowman, I especially like Sean Lee. But those guys are inside linebackers right now. And we have a pretty good quartet of guys at inside linebacker. Outside linebacker we need some depth on this football team at outside linebacker. And we need better special teams then we had last year and we think this guy can help us in that area quickly." When asked what the Steelers liked best about Worilds, Butler replied, "Speed, but more than anything that he was fluid. Hes not a guy that you expect to stand up. A lot of guys you stand up early kind of struggle with opening their hips and dropping in pass coverage. Thats always the question we have on what we call "hybrids." He was able to do things that we wanted him to do that we think he can do in this system. It was a matter of us projecting him in this system and I think hes a good fit for us."

So here we are now two years later and Worilds has played less than 600 snaps total on defense. He likely would not have even played that many had it not been for the injuries suffered last season by LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison. That being said, Worilds could have played quite a bit more had he not been sidelined with his own hamstring problems. He did show flashes last year on the left side while Woodley was sidelined, but also looked inconsistent as well, especially against the run.

Knowing that Woodley and Harrison will be the starters in 2012, how will Worilds get on the field in his third season? Sure, he can spell both players on the outside, but this is a second round draft pick entering his third season in the league now that we are talking about. One would expect him to start contributing in greater capacity outside of just special teams. Sure, 2012 could likely be the final year for Harrison, but that is not guaranteed, especially if he is able to bounce back in the quarterback pressure and sack department. He is signed through 2014 just in case.

Scout Dave-Te Thomas, who has been on a few of our recent podcast, suggested that Worilds could be making the move inside this year. Thomas and Worilds have the same agent, and Thomas is pretty convincing that this could happen. Does he know something the rest of us don't? Really there has been no real indication that Worilds will be moving inside though, but of course the fan base would be the last to know it. Worilds does have the idea measurables, and is reportedly a pretty smart kid, but for a blogger like myself to suggest that move could happen would be mere speculation. One thing to keep in mind though is that James Farrior, who was the Steelers BUCK linebacker since he arrived via free agency, was also an outside linebacker during his time with the New York Jets. The Jets pretty much gave up on Farrior, a former first round selection; after five seasons and he went on to have a great career inside for the Steelers. He of course was released just this offseason. Any guesses as to where Farrior went to college? Virginia, the same school that produced Worilds. Now can we draw any hard evidence from that alone? No, but it is a weird coincidence. Tin foil hats anyone? ETA: BRAIN FART!!!!!!!!! (Farrior - Virginia) (Worilds - Virginia Tech)

Not to be forgotten is that the Steelers also drafted Thaddeus Gibson and Stevenson Sylvester in 2010 as well. Gibson was another outside guy, while Sylvester an inside guy. Just last April they drafted Chris Carter, yet another hybrid outside guy. Gibson is the only player not to stick thus far and to hear head coach Mike Tomlin talk, they expect 2012 to be a jump year for Sylvester, who in my opinion is better suited for the MACK role than he is the BUCK role in the limited playing time I have to analyze him. That means he could be best suited as backing up Lawrence Timmons, who signed a long extension last offseason. Larry Foote, who is entering his final year under contract, is currently slated to start the season at the BUCK spot with Sylvester backing him up. When you look at the linebackers on the roster that are speculated to make the 53 at this point, you come up with seven (Woodley, Harrison, Timmons, Foote, Worilds, Carter, Sylvester). Odds are they will not carry more than nine when they break camp, so it is obvious that we can expect one, if not two, linebackers to be drafted next week. Likely one inside and one outside. Let's not forget that Mortty Ivy, Marshall McFadden, Brandon Hicks are all on the roster as well. While all three are considered dark horses, Harrison was one too at the beginning of his career.

When you look at the pre draft visitors the Steelers have had in leading up to the draft, you see four outside types and three inside types, not counting the local University of Pittsburgh players. The top round prospects on that list are of course Dont'a Hightower, Nick Perry, Mychal Kendricks and Andre Branch. Realistically Hightower and Perry are the only first rounders according to several of the draftniks. The concerns with Hightower is that he is only an inside BUCK guy that lacks lateral agility and ability to drop and cover. There is no doubt he is always around the football though and makes splash plays. He could lack the versatility though to play outside, other than being an occasional edge rusher, and Butler has said in the past that young linebackers usually take two years to learn the system. Perry is a strong side defensive end that would have to be stood up as an outside linebacker in the 3-4. He too lacks prime agility, but does make up for it in explosion. He also has played on both sides.

General manager Kevin Colbert has been all over both of the Alabama pro days in March, so it is easy to point to Hightower as an easy target in the first round, but he has boom or bust written all over him due to his speed and lateral agility in my opinion. It would also likely take a full year at the very least to find that out, likely longer if the two-year Butler rule remains strict. Even though Hightower played in the 3-4 at Alabama, it would be hard to imagine him seeing the field his rookie season unless injuries occurred. Keep in mind that the Steelers have not drafted a "true" inside BUCK linebacker in the first round in the Super Bowl era. Coincidence or just damning evidence? Is Hightower that much of a can't miss prospect to end that string if he is still on the board when the Steelers pick? Based on the poll I ran recently, Steeler Nation seems to think so. I on the other hand am struggling with it being a slam dunk, but am not discounting it as a possibility either. Perhaps I just watched too much tape on him.

The damning thing that might make a Worilds move inside pretty much impossible is the current depth at outside linebacker. Who would the Steelers plug in if either Woodley or Harrison went down? We learned last year that it can't be Timmons, and Carter has very limited snaps to make one feel comfortable with him. Like Sylvester, it is hard to give a solid analysis of a player that has not seen the field much.

Depending on what round, and what type of linebacker is drafted early on, could tell us what the organization thinks of Worilds. Should Perry be the pick, it could signal that Worilds is slated to move inside in 2012 or out of town after 2012. Should Hightower be the pick, it could mean that Sylvester is not thought of as the heir apparent to Farrior and that Worilds will remain on the outside to eventually succeed Harrison.

One thing is for certain though, expect a few of the draft picks to be linebackers next weekend and I can't wait to hear Butler talk about what the future holds for Worilds during his press conference following the pick. Is he the next Farrior, the next Alonzo Jackson, the heir apparent to Harrison or somewhere in-between?

http://www.steelersdepot.com/2012/04/state-of-the-steelers-linebackers-could-worilds-really-be-slated-to-move-inside/