LATROBE – Steelers linebacker Jason Worilds has kept a pretty low profile at the team’s training camp at Saint Vincent College since it opened last week.
He’s made some splash plays on the field, such as an interception of Ben Roethlisberger while covering speedy running back Dri Archer earlier this week, but off the field, Worilds was his usual self, going about his business quietly.
If you’re looking for a lot of trash talking and attention-grabbing statements, Worilds isn’t you’re guy.
But that doesn’t mean the team’s other linebackers aren’t looking to the fifth-year linebacker for leadership.
“I think there’s just that perception of these crazy linebackers, but we’ve got our own identity,” said Jarvis Jones, who will start opposite Worilds at right outside linebacker. “The way Jason is, he’s just chill. We’re kind of the same. He’s a little more quiet than I am. I’m more of a people person. We’ve got our own laid-back attitude. But on the field, it’s different. He doesn’t say much on the field, but you can tell that there’s a sense of urgency.”
That urgency Worilds is showing has nothing to do with his contract status or personal goals.
“We’re looking at playoffs right now,” Worilds said. “That’s the only goal I’m looking at right now.”
If that happens, everything else will take care of itself.
“Yeah, absolutely,” he said.
Everything else for Worilds would included an unresolved contract situation.
The Steelers placed the transition tag on Worilds in March, keeping him off the free agent market but guaranteeing the 2010 second-round draft pick a one-year deal worth $9.75 million.
In the past, players around the league took offense when a transition or franchise tag was used. They preferred the stability of a long-term deal over a one-year deal, even one that constitutes a huge raise such as the one Worilds received.
However, Worilds looked at the transition tag in a different way.
“It just showed me the feelings were mutual,” said Worilds, who made $355,000 in 2013 in the final season of his rookie contract.
“I wanted to be in Pittsburgh, and by tagging me, they showed me that they wanted me in Pittsburgh.”
He signed his transition tag soon after the Steelers used it on him. Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert reiterated earlier this week the organization would like to reach a long-team agreement with Worilds beyond the 2014 season. But even if that doesn’t happen, the team could use a franchise tag on Worilds again for 2015.
It’s heady territory for a player some considered a bust when he played sparingly in his first three NFL seasons sitting the bench behind perennial Pro Bowl outside linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley.
Last season, Worilds split time with Jones, a first-round draft pick, opposite Woodley. But he eventually forced Jones to the bench and, eventually, Woodley out of Pittsburgh. He was released and later signed with the Oakland Raiders.
Worlids’ breakout season included 63 tackles, a team-high eight sacks and a pair of forced fumbles, despite starting just 11 of the team’s 16 games and splitting time with Jones early in the season.
The 6-2, 262-pound Worilds feels he can improve on those numbers this season.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I think just going back and watching the film, there’s a lot of ways that I can get better. I’ve focused on that this offseason. It’s the same thing collectively as personally – if I can come out here and apply myself every day and work at it.”
With Woodley gone, Worilds is the longest-tenured outside linebacker with the Steelers.
He’s not a vocal leader who’s going to scream and yell. Worilds is as quiet and unassuming on the field as he is off of it, much like inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons
“It’s different. But different isn’t necessarily a bad thing,” Worilds said. “It’s interesting kind of coming up through the ranks and seeing a different perspective. I just like being here with (Timmons) and working with those young guys and trying to help them out along the way. It’s something we accept.”
Odds and end zones
Rookie tight end Eric Waters suffered a lower back injury and had to leave practice Thursday. … Wide receiver Darius Heyward-Bey also left early after receiving a hit to the head. … Running back Le’Veon Bell, out the past few days with a tight hamstring, returned to practice on a limited basis. He and running back LeGarrette Blount were held out of live tackling drills. … The Steelers will hold their annual night practice at Latrobe Memorial Stadium at 7 p.m. tonight. There will be an autograph session prior to the start of the practice and fireworks will follow.