Another in a position-by-position series examining the Steelers' roster in advance of the start of free agency.
(Free Agent Scorecard: 3 unrestricted – Stevenson Sylvester, Jamaal Westerman, Jason Worilds)
Seemingly never good enough for a regular role on defense and yet good enough to keep on the 53-man roster, Carter is entering his fourth pro season as a player whose fate could be determined by what happens with guys like LaMarr Woodley and Jason Worilds during free agency, and then by what the Steelers decide to do on draft day. The Steelers typically keep four outside linebackers on the opening 53-man roster.
The team's No. 1 pick looked good enough early to be listed as a co-starter at ROLB through September, but he eventually yielded to Jason Worilds, who simply was out-playing him. Jones looks to be a guy who can find the football, but he's going to have to get stronger and develop a better understanding of the defense before his skills will have a chance to manifest themselves to the degree the defense will need. Jones wants to be good, which is a big part of it.
Signed to a futures contract on Jan. 27. He has appeared in 13 career games with three Green Bay, Oakland, and Arizona. He finished 2013 on the Saints' practice squad. So'oto originally signed with the Packers as an undrafted rookie out of BYU in 2011.
Began his career here as an inside linebacker but saw the bulk of his playing time in 2013 as an outside linebacker. Waived in August but re-signed in October, Sylvester might have been helped by what he showed the coaches when asked to play outside. Last offseason he was a restricted free agent the Steelers decided not to tender; this offseason he will be an unrestricted free agent in March.
Signed for depth on Dec. 17, Westerman didn't play a snap on defense, and he will be unrestricted in March.
This will be the most-watched move of the offseason. During the three seasons from 2008-10, Woodley had 35 sacks, plus nine more in the playoffs. During the three seasons from 2011-13, he missed 14 games with hamstring, ankle and calf injuries. This many soft-tissue injuries over a three-year span is not a good sign, and Woodley will be 30 in November. But when healthy, he was a dynamic outside linebacker in a 3-4. There really are two questions about Woodley to be answered this offseason: Can he still play? Is he worth his cap number?
His situation is assumed to be tied to Woodley's, where the Steelers will face an either/or proposition with them. Maybe, maybe not. But what Worilds is right now is an up-and-coming outside linebacker who has grown into the Steelers' system and shown he can play on either side. Keeping their own promising players has been the Steelers' strategy since free agency began back in 1993, and Worilds fits that description.