I had high hopes that Vince Williams could contribute on the defensive side of the ball at some point during his career with the Steelers. I just assumed that the rookie would have to wait at least a year or two to see some game action. Plus, with durable veterans like Lawrence Timmons and Larry Foote in front of him on the depth chart in addition to some experienced backups, I assumed that the former Seminole would be a special teams-only player while he developed the rest of his game.
Williams however beat out Marshall McFadden, Stevenson Sylvester, Brian Rolle, and Terence Garvin during preseason play, and he earned one of the two backup roles behind Timmons and Foote on Pittsburgh’s roster. As close as he was to the starting lineup, the Steelers had their veterans locked into place until Foote was lost for the season due to an injury he sustained in Week 1.
With Foote sidelined, Kion Wilson moved into the starting lineup as Pittsburgh’s “buck/strongside” inside linebacker in his place. In addition to Wilson’s recent promotion, Williams will is also expected to see game action on defense according to Ray Fittipaldo of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
As a rookie, Williams will have some enormous opportunities to take advantage of during the regular season when he sees the field on the defensive side of the ball. Many starters on Pittsburgh’s defense did not have those types chances early in their careers, so Williams can definitely make a statement if he can steadily improve when he is called upon by defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau this fall.
LeBeau certainly has confidence that Williams (and Wilson) can help out in Foote’s absence too according to Fittipaldo:
They are just young players learning what to do, … I think they’ve all made great progress to this point. I am confident. I know they will play physical and play hard. We just have to coach them and get them in the right place.
If the former sixth round pick can step up and show that he can be a capable backup and potential starter in the future for this franchise, then the Steelers’ coaching staff can finally feel comfortable that they found a long-term starter to place next to Timmons.
Of course, how much Williams can play this fall will be directly related to how fast he can learn the defensive scheme and how effective he can be on the field. Due to injuries and uncertainty at the position however, it looks like the rookie will receive his chances to chip in and help during the next 15 games.
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