ShareThis Page

Steelers looking to tap potential of Worilds

| Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has said he expects players to make the most improvement from their first to second year.

Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler has hardly been subtle in getting that across to 2010 second-round pick Jason Worilds.

"He hasn't appeared in the past to look like he's a guy that's hungry to make the team, and we want him to have that," Butler said. "We want to play him. We don't want to have to take LaMarr (Woodley) and James Harrison and let them play 950 plays this year. We want to be able to put him on the field where he knows the defense well enough that he can run to the football."

With the Steelers' starting linebackers set, one of Butler's top priorities in training camp has been motivating Worilds.

The Steelers lack depth behind Woodley and Harrison, who had two back surgeries during the offseason, and Worilds is the most logical candidate to emerge among an unproven group of outside linebackers.

Worilds has a "burst like Lawrence Timmons," said Butler, and that is saying something considering Timmons is arguably the hardest hitter on a defense that prides itself on physicality.

What Butler has been drilling into Worilds is the importance of playing with more intensity, especially during practices when defenders tag instead of tackle ball carriers.

"He pulls up a little bit too much, like he's been here for 10 years," Butler said. "If he's competitive, he'll get better and be a good player for us. We think he has started to move in that direction."

Worilds, who led the country in quarterback pressures (38) his final season at Virginia Tech, agrees.

"I just need to finish on a consistent basis, no matter what drill it is," said Worilds, who had two sacks last season in limited action.

Worilds suffered a possible setback Wednesday, leaving practice with groin tightness and putting in question his status for the preseason opener Friday at Washington.

Worilds, as Woodley before him, moved from defensive end in college to outside linebacker in the NFL. That transition may be why, Butler acknowledged, Worilds doesn't always play as fast as the coaches would like.

The lockout didn't help him — or any other second-year player Tomlin expects to make a big jump — as it cost Worilds offseason practices and valuable chalkboard sessions with Butler.

Still, Worilds said, he is much more comfortable in the Steelers' defense than he was this time last year.

"Night and day," Worilds said. "I'm not looking around. I can make some of the calls myself. I know where to go."

Butler wants to see Worilds, who comes across as quiet, get there with more urgency, to play with more vigor.

"I've got to pull that out of him," Butler said. "Sometimes it is something you're born with; sometimes it is your circumstances. James Harrison was on the street a couple of times. It made him hungry. A lot of different things motivate guys."

Butler said he is not singling out Worilds as he tries to tap into the potential that prompted the Steelers to make Worilds their second pick in the 2010 draft, after Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey.

"Nobody has a free ride this year, including me," Butler said. "I've got a room full of (high-priced players). We better produce in that room. That's the nature of this business, and I embrace that, and I've been trying to get him to embrace that."

Fab Four

The Steelers have arguably the best linebacking corps in the NFL. Here is a look at their four starters:

James Harrison, ROLB: Entering fifth season as a starter, seventh on Steelers' all-time sacks list with 49.

Lawrence Timmons, RILB: First-round pick in 2007 may be next in line for a long-term contract.

James Farrior, LILB: Ageless wonder is coming off season in which he recorded 109 tackles and six sacks.

LaMarr Woodley, LOLB: Highest-paid defensive player in franchise history.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.