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Ex-Steeler Worilds makes 'faith-based' decision to move on from football

| Wednesday, March 11, 2015, 10:33 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Steelers linebacker Jason Worilds sheds the block of the Texans' Garrett Graham on the way to stopping running back Arian Foster Monday, Oct. 20, 2014 at Heinz Field.

Jason Worilds had a calling, and it had nothing to do with football or a lucrative long-term contract that was within his grasp.

It had everything to do with his faith.

Worilds, the Steelers' second-round pick in 2010 out of Virginia Tech and one of the most sought-after players on the free-agent market, gave up football to pursue interests related to his religion of Jehovah's Witnesses, industry sources confirmed to Trib Total Media.

Worilds informed the Steelers on Tuesday of his decision and then announced his intentions of walking away from the game via a series of Twitter messages by his agent Jason Bernstein early Wednesday morning and then later by Worilds.

“He is stepping away because he wanted to pursue other interests,” one source close to Worilds said. “The decision was faith-based as he wanted to pursue interests related to that. He still likes the game of football and certainly had lucrative options on the table but felt his time was best spent on those other interests.”

The true scope of Worilds' decision might never been known.

Worilds told Trib Total Media on Wednesday, “I don't know when I'll speak on it or if I will.”

That Worilds, who turned 27 last week, would walk away from a payday that likely would have guaranteed him between $10 million and $15 million might come as a surprise. In comparison, outside linebacker Brandon Graham signed a four-year, $26 million deal with $14 million guaranteed with the Eagles. Worilds' announcing his retirement wasn't a shock to teammate Ramon Foster.

“He was a guy you could tell he thought outside the box,” Foster said. “He was a guy who didn't care about the money, and it shows now.”

Worilds earned more than $13.5 million over his five-year career, including $9.754 million last year playing under the transition tag.

Still, Worilds drove a Toyota Camry that his mother, Sandra Worilds, bought him in college. And he still shares an apartment with a friend.

“We respect his decision to retire and thank him for his five years in Pittsburgh,” the Steelers said in a statement. “We wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

The Steelers left the option open to re-sign Worilds, though they decided against applying the franchise or transition tags and allowed him to get to free agency.

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert called Worilds an “ascending player” last month and said the organization felt Worilds was “definitely someone that we will consider keeping.”

Foster said Worilds worked hard every day in the weight room to continue to get better at his craft. Worilds led the Steelers in sacks the past two seasons and had 50 pressures last season, which put him among the top 10 for 3-4 outside linebackers.

“I am surprised, but I support him,” Foster said. “He's a very good player, very good guy and athlete. It would've been nice to see how his career would have turned out.”

Notes: The Steelers will host former Carolina running back DeAngelo Williams on Friday. Williams, who is the Panthers' all-time leading rusher, had 219 yards during an injury-riddled 2014 season. Williams played at Memphis when Steelers quarterback coach Randy Fichtner was the offensive coordinator. … The Steelers completed the restructure of center Maurkice Pouncey's contract that will save the team $3.8 million in cap space. The Steelers are about $7.5 million under the salary cap.

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mkaboly@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

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