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A few seasons ago, Steelers fans would be hard-pressed to believe the outside linebacker position could become a trouble spot.
Even if James Harrison’s play were to fall off, as it did, the Steelers still had a young standout in LaMarr Woodley and an up-and-coming second-rounder in Jason Worilds. However, at the onset of 2014, a trouble spot is exactly what the position’s become.
Woodley’s past three seasons have been hampered by injury, and his big contract has suddenly become a bane to the team. Compounding matters further is the fact that Worilds finally had a breakout season in 2013.
Unfortunately for the Steelers, Worilds' breakout came in a contract year.
Considering the big contract pass-rusher Paul Kruger (five years, $40 million) earned as a free agent last year, it’s tough to see the Steelers paying Worilds what he’s deemed to be worth on the open market. That is, if Woodley’s contract stays on the books.
Seeing as Woodley’s contract carries major cap implications even if he’s released, it’s unlikely that he won’t be with the Steelers next season. Which means Worilds will likely go the way of the last young Steelers defender to break out: Keenan Lewis.
Lewis emerged as a starter for the league’s top pass defense in 2012, which was a contract year for the cornerback. However, due in part to a significant chunk of change being owed to a teammate at the same position in Ike Taylor, the Steelers let Lewis walk.
It appears something similar could play out this offseason with Worilds and Woodley.