A crazy thing happened on the way to rookie outside linebacker Jarvis Jones chasing Jason Worilds out of a job.
Maybe both of them have teamed up to put LaMarr Woodley’s future with the Steelers in peril — or at least his starting spot at left outside linebacker.
Back in the most recent draft, before this season began, the Steelers used their first pick — 17th overall — to select Jones out of the University of Georgia.
He was, and still is, the prototypical talent for the club’s 3-4 approach, swift enough to get off the edge and chase down a quarterback, yet stout enough when called upon to provide muscle overtop a tackle and impede the run.
Jones was speedily placed into the right outside linebacker position to compete with Worilds, a second-round pick in 2010 by the Steelers who many had dubbed an overwhelming underachiever to this point in his career.
Worilds could have taken the selection of Jones (and early-season playing time for the rookie) one of two ways — as the ultimate sign of disrespect or the most obvious motivation.
He chose the latter.
Good for him.
The organization needed to find the impetus to make Jason Worilds into a better football player and, wouldn’t you know it, the threat of a young buck coming in and yanking his livelihood away from him seems to have done precisely the trick.
On Sunday in a 27-11 victory against the Browns, Worilds was magnificent again, making Cleveland tackle Mitchell Schwartz his personal thumping bag as he pushed, shoved and heaved the offensive lineman seemingly all day.
With Woodley sidelined for the second consecutive week with a calf injury, Worilds shifted to the left side to take his spot, getting the start opposite of Jones, who started on the right side.
Worilds’ stat line in the convincing win against the Browns: Five tackles and six hits on the quarterback.
Keep in mind the showing against the Browns for Worilds came on the heels of the Detroit game for him where he made eight tackles and had a sack. Just a few weeks ago against the Patriots, Worilds had a pair of sacks and a few weeks prior to that he had a tremendous showing against the Jets with six tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.
On Sunday up by the lake against Cleveland, Jones didn’t play all that bad either as he continues to settle into the NFL game. He had a couple of tackles and a pass deflection.
That brings us back to Woodley. Could it be a case where, even when healthy both the short and long term best interests of the Steelers are best suited to have Worilds and Jones on the field at the same time?
Certainly such a case — a strong one — can be made.
At the very least, because of his play as of late, it would seem impossible to tell Worilds that he must take a seat when Woodley regains his health.
That said, maybe it is time to ask Woodley to flip to the right side and split reps with Jones, as Worilds has done enough to get full time repetitions.
As he totes around that six-year, $61.5 million deal that he inked in August of 2011, it will be next-to-impossible at the end of the season to flat-out part ways with Woodley, even as he hasn’t lived up to that salary to this point in the life of that contract.
The Steelers, however, now have a good problem to have at outside linebacker.
They have three guys who — at various stages in their career have been good — fighting for just two spots.
Who would have ever thought, however, that Jason Worilds would be at the top of the heap and LaMarr Woodley at the bottom?
Crazy as it sounds, that’s the case right now.
Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his bio here.