A lot to do about nothing: that appears to be the result of a "report" which surfaced over a week ago, stating Steeler's linebacker Jason Worilds turned down a contract offer with the team. The report was debunked, per an anonymous team source, who says a contract has not been offered to Worilds... yet.
As is customary with these "reports," some media "insider" makes a story out of something that does not exist (much like last year when Ben Roehtlisberger was reportedly "unhappy and is seeking a trade.") The stories do nothing but create tension, where otherwise, hard feelings may not exist. This is likely the case for the Steeler organization's talks with Jason Worilds.
So far, mum is the word from Worilds, who is a quiet and guarded person. Nothing has been said from the Steelers camp either. So what is the big deal about a new contract for Jason Worilds? Here are several reasons why this story continues to pop up during the off-season:
Pass rushers are a premium: No secret to anyone that pays attention to the NFL, pass rushers receive premium contracts. The Steelers wasted no time this off-season, placing a transition tag on Jason Worilds before the OLB was set to enter free agency. While Worilds could have sought offers from other clubs, the Steelers also could have matched those offers. The situation could create tension between the two parties, making negations for a larger contract difficult for the player. Worilds signed the tender quickly, suggesting he wants to remain in black and gold. Also, the tag is far from chump change, as Worild's will make over $10 million this season.
Steelers Salary Cap: Using any of the various tags available will make a player one of the highest paid at their position. If the Steelers and Jason Worilds cannot come to an agreement, a franchise tag could be in the future: it would pay Worilds an average of the top five players at his position. While this is a good sum for the player, it's an expensive one-year option for Pittsburgh, who will have to fit Worilds under their cap space, rather than structuring a contract that could be spread out over several years. (See Maurkice Pouncey's deal.)
Front office negotiations: The Steelers do not discuss contracts during the season. This is a tradition from the team and few exceptions have ever been made (one was for Troy Polamalu, when he signed an extension years ago.) When contracts are always offered based on a what a player will do for you in future seasons, Pittsburgh could be taking a "wait and see" approach, in regard to Worilds' production in 2014. The "wait" will be after the season concludes. However, getting on board with a new contract early may provide a virtual discount of sorts; should Worilds have a stellar season, his stock could rise and price him out of the Steelers' budget.
LaMarr Woodley: Woodley, while gone from the team, still haunts the Steelers. He signed,at the time, the largest contract for a Pittsburgh defender in team history. Having to decide between Worilds and Woodley, the Steelers cut ties with the latter, eating $8 million in dead money for the 2014 season's salary cap. The money could've been used to pursue other free agents, or to restructure and/or extend current players on the team. The team may be keen on learning from history, as Woodley gives us a reminder of...
Worilds injury history: Woodley also suffered from a number of injuries which kept him off the field. Pittsburgh may wait to find out how durable their Worilds is, and if he can play a full season without ending up on the sidelines. Also, Woodley may have left a bad taste in Pittsburgh's mouth, where the Steelers might be reluctant to go "all in" once again. It's also difficult to shake the memory of Woodley's injury history when his replacement plays the same position: a great example of guilt by association for Jason Worilds.
In conclusion, the cat-and-mouse media game surrounding Worilds' contract will continue until a deal is done. Otherwise, look for this story to drag on into the next off-season, where the linebacker could receive another tag or enter free agency. Either way, it appears both parties are being cautious with their respective futures: something I cannot fault either for doing.