As the Pittsburgh Steelers set to take the field tonight in Tennessee to face the Titans, they will be doing so without two key pieces: safety Troy Polamalu and outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley.
Polamalu has already missed two games this season due to a calf injury. He re-aggravated the injury on Sunday in his first game back. Woodley exited the game on the same play not to return on the second Michael Vick fumble.
Through three games, Woodley had two sacks, three quarterback hits, and six hurries, according to Pro Football Focus.
The former Pro Bowl player looked to be having a Defensive Player of the Year-caliber season at the halfway point last year before it was derailed by a severe hamstring injury that limited him the remainder of the season.
In the four games prior to the injury, Woodley had collected 7.5 sacks to total 9 on the season with a full half of the season remaining, but he was unable to register another.
Fortunately, this new hamstring injury is not believed to be very serious, and is on the opposite leg. It is possible that the short week was the deciding factor in him not playing tonight.
Taking Woodley’s place will be third year player Jason Worilds, who started 7 games last season substituting for both Woodley and Harrison at various times. He finished the season with 38 tackles and 3 sacks, as well as a forced fumble.
Although it was not revealed until after the season, Worilds played all of last year with a wrist injury. Despite playing through it, he had the wrist operated on during the offseason. The injury wiped out nearly the entirety of his offseason, and may have contributed to his slow start to this season.
Through limited activity in 4 games this season, Worilds has 10 tackles (all solo) in addition to 2 sacks and a pass defensed. He had one of the best games of his career filling in for Woodley on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles where he registered 3 tackles (including 2 for a loss), 1 pass defensed, 1 sack, and one quarterback hit.
Said defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau of Worilds’ performance last week:
I thought he played well. Jason played pretty well last year. He grew tremendously. He missed so much football with that injury and that’s nobody’s fault. It’s just the way it is. I thought that he looked closer to what he was last year last week. Again, some of those young guys we’re looking to grow and to continue to contribute. I thought Jason played a good football game last week.
Steelers look for big game out of Jason Worilds with LaMarr Woodley out