Upon learning the news that Jason Worilds up and retired last night, one week after turning 27 years old, my initial headline was going to be something along this line:
Nothing Day For Steelers Ends In Retirement Of Player They Didn't Want
That's how little the activity with which the Steelers involved themselves on the first day of free agency.
Except for attending the funeral of a family member of a team employee, nothing really happened. And I liked it that way.
After all, this is not baseball. These are for the most part journeyman football players who often are available because they're not completely whole. It's a savage game, and the Steelers do not deal with someone else's injured players. Takes too much tending to, during and after their playing days.
No, I chuckled as those who've misunderstood the Steelers' methods over the years cursed them for being so inactive on the opening day of free agency.
Perhaps the Steelers learned a great lesson from changing up and signing Mike Mitchell to much fanfare on the first day last season. But apparently some of their fans have not.
So, this season, nada. And probably with good reason. Look at this list:
* LaMarr Woodley? Are you kidding?
* Darrelle Revis? Do you think that was serious? They made a quick call to a hometown guy whom they hoped had made enough money in the game and wanted to come home to mom. He hadn't, and he didn't.
* Brice McCain is being wooed by Minnesota and Miami? Oh, the horror. The horror. A guy who had been injured two previous years signed for a minimum wage deal with the Steelers last year and they got lucky because he stayed healthy. Yes, I wanted him back, but that was the bad part of giving McCain his one-year platform, that he could've stayed healthy and gone hunting again for bigger money the following March. No great loss, if you ask me. And maybe he will come back. Great.
* And now we hear the news that Worilds has retired.
"I appreciate all of the interest from the organizations that have reached out to us the past few days," his statement reads. "With that being said, after much thought & consideration I have chosen to step away from football as I have opted to pursue other interests. I am especially grateful of the opportunity to play before some of the greatest fans in football today. Despite any concern and speculation that may ensue, I appreciate those that are respectful of my decision."
There was shock amongst colleagues, but all I could do was shrug.
Yes, I have to say it's a bit of a surprise, but as you've probably read from me either on Twitter or here in this space: I thought Jason was too nice to play outside linebacker in the NFL. At least for my tastes. I've bemoaned the fact that Worilds and Jarvis Jones are nice and friendly and soft-spoken and that makes them unlike any other successful pass-rusher I've known here in Pittsburgh: Greg Lloyd, Kevin Greene, Chad Brown, Joey Porter, Jason Gildon, James Harrison, Clark Haggans, Woodley.
Not sure if I've written it here or just made the statement to friends, but I've compared Worilds' personality to that of Steven Conley. And you probably don't even remember him.
Worilds was so soft-spoken, and that's when he would speak because he never, ever wanted to make waves. Hey, he has class. And after one effective game late in the season I asked him if he was pleased to be asked to rush the passer so often, as opposed to dropping into coverage. And he didn't say anything. He just gave a big, pronounced smile to make sure I got the message.
But in my opinion, while one quiet, friendly pass-rusher is tenable, one on each side is not.
Call me the strange one now but I've made it clear that my plan, if I were spending Steelers money, would be to sign Harrison back for one year, move him opposite Jones, and draft Owamagbe Odighizuwa to put behind Harrison, to learn from him. lift with him, scare reporters with him, and then the following year play the strong side in replacing him. And if by then Jones hasn't toughened up, draft another guy for the blind side.
Yes, get another guy, and that reminds me of something else I tweeted yesterday. The Worilds free-agency campaign, for whatever reason, was causing me to think back to the Earl Holmes free-agency campaign of 2002. Holmes was expected by the Pittsburgh media to provide quite a dramatic back-and-forth volley of financial excitement. But free agency opened early in March and nothing happened.
I estimated in my tweet yesterday that Holmes received little interest for 10 days, but I just looked it up and he hung out there in limbo until April 8. By then the Steelers were back in the game and bidding on Holmes at his reduced asking price. The Steelers made an offer that Holmes' agent took to the Cleveland Browns as leverage. This angered Dan Rooney, who turned and said, "Call the other guy!"
And that guy -- James Farrior -- captained the Steelers' defense through two Super Bowl titles.
Perhaps the Steelers would've gotten back into the Worilds bidding, but certainly not at his reported asking price of $8 million per year. As one anonymous source told another reporter, "We're not paying a million per sack."
So the interest in Worilds waned. After early interest from Tennessee and Dick LeBeau, even the Titans moved on to others. No one, it seemed, had interest in Worilds at that price, and then last night he up and retired.
And, really, to quote that old football scholar George Thorogood, "That don't befront me" because I didn't want to sign him to a deal that would put him in front of my first-round pick for the next four years. I'm tired of nice guys. To quote another old football scholar, my old boss Vic Ketchman, "The choir boys should be in church at one o'clock on Sundays."
No, I want Owa the Asskicker and James, a.k.a. Deebo, or Silverback, or whatever other ferocious name Harrison had acquired over the years. I think the guy has another year in him, and the rookie can save Harrison much summer wear and tear and gain playing experience in August.
Way too risky to plan on a first-round pick who you aren't even sure you can get?
As opposed to what? Eight sacks from a guy who doesn't have a passion for the game?
Hey, if the Steelers have an idea that maybe a Derrick Morgan, a Jabaal Sheard, can come cheaply and surprise the league with a breakout season, fine. But don't let that stop you from drafting an angry young pass-rusher with pedigree and fresh and healthy legs.
Just to quote that other old football scholar, the guy who's done this a few times: "Call the other guy!"
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