OLB picture still fuzzy for Steelers

March, 4, 2014
Mar 4
2:00
PM ET
It is curious, at first blush, that Jason Worilds signed a one-year, $9.75 million contract less than a day after the Steelers used a transition tag on the outside linebacker.

With the tag only allowing the Steelers to match any offer made to Worilds on or after March 22 he figured to attract some suitors on the open market, especially with so few pass-rushers available in free agency this year.

Worilds decided not to wait to see what the market would yield two weeks after agents are allowed to start negotiating with teams on behalf of prospective free agents.

By taking the sure thing a day after celebrating his 26th birthday Worilds guaranteed himself a huge pay day for 2014, while also holding onto leverage for the long-term deal that the Steelers will no doubt seek so they can lower his cap number.

The Steelers are $15.5 million over the cap, according to ESPN Stats & Info, and they have some work to do to get in compliance with the cap before next Tuesday.

They will be able to do that -- and free enough room under the cap to sign free agents -- through a combination of releases and salary reductions as well as signing veterans to long-term contracts.

The recent developments with Worilds don’t bode well for LaMarr Woodley, the highest-paid defensive player in Steelers history.

Woodley has a monster cap number ($13.59 million) in 2014, but paradoxically it would cost the Steelers even more from a salary-cap standpoint if they release him before June 1.

The Steelers could push a significant amount of Woodley’s salary-cap hit into next year if they designate him a post-June 1 cut. They could also ask him to take a significant pay cut to return to Pittsburgh in 2014.

So much remains to be sorted out when it comes to one of the most important positions on the Steelers' defense.

The only thing that seems certain right now is that how the Steelers proceed with Woodley will be related to how confident they are they can sign Worilds to a long-term contract before the start of training camp.

Scott Brown

ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter

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