Jason Worilds is open to re-signing with the Pittsburgh Steelers before he becomes an unrestricted free agent in March, with one caveat: The outside linebacker has to be confident he has secured a starting job.
Worilds led the Steelers with eight sacks in 2013, starting 11 games -- one more than he had started in his first three years combined -- during a breakout season. He also finished second on the team with 29 quarterback pressures and recorded 63 tackles with two forced fumbles.
When asked if he wants to stay in Pittsburgh, Worilds told ESPN.com during a telephone interview, "If the circumstances are right, for sure. They haven't been right for me in the past. I wouldn't want to fall back into (not starting) again."
The 6-foot-2, 262-pounder emerged after a nagging calf injury sustained by LaMarr Woodley provided an opening at left outside linebacker.
Worilds recorded five sacks in his final six games -- he missed the regular-season finale with an abdominal injury -- and showed why the Steelers used a second-round pick on him in 2010.
Worilds, who had been starting at right outside linebacker prior to Woodley's injury, has positioned himself to cash in as an unrestricted free agent. And the Steelers probably have to make a decision between Worilds and Woodley based on economics and the fact that they invested a first-round pick on Jarvis Jones last year.
Woodley, who signed a six-year, $61.5 contract in 2011, is scheduled to make $8 million in 2014 with a salary cap hit of $13.59 million. The seven-year veteran could be a cap casualty, and the Steelers would save millions in regards to the cap if they released Woodley after June 1.
The Steelers are currently around $10 million over the cap, and it would be difficult for them to clear the kind of room it would take to re-sign Worilds and keep Woodley.
Worilds said he has not been given any indication by the Steelers about what their plans at outside linebacker.
"I've just been patient and (waiting to) see how the Steelers view me," said Worilds, who has been training in his native New Jersey. "The biggest thing is just being in the right situation."
Steelers president Art Rooney II mentioned Worilds specifically during a recent conference call with season ticket-holders when asked about the team's top priorities regarding its own free agents.
And Worilds, the former Virginia Tech star, tops the list of Steelers players who can become unrestricted free agents on March 11 despite a slow start to his career. He started sparingly his first three seasons in the NFL, playing behind Woodley and James Harrison. He missed two offseasons due to the NFL lockout in 2011 and his recovery from surgery that fixed a ligament tear in his wrist the following year, which hindered his development.
Worilds, who turns 26 in March, said the impact he made in 2013 simply stemmed from playing on a regular basis.
"It's been rough just to get on the field, especially when you probably could have helped the team in years past, but you just weren't given an opportunity," Worilds said. "The opportunity came this year, and I did well with it. For me to get out there and play consistently I kind of feel like I showed some people what I could do."