One simple tweet from Mark Kaboly said everything you need to know about second year linebacker Vince Williams. After Saturday’s practice Kaboly tweeted, “Vince Williams has been a beast during the first week of camp. The guy has a big chip on his shoulder.” Despite being a sixth round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, Williams started 11 games last season. Apparently the Steelers front office decided that linebacker was still a need as they drafted Ryan Shazier in the first round of May’s draft. Presumably meaning that Williams would be headed to the Steelers bench. That may end out to be true, as Shazier will likely be the starting inside linebacker alongside Lawrence Timmons on week one. One thing drafting Shazier doesn’t mean though, is that Vince Williams is about to gracefully hand over his starting spot.
Williams was not drafted until the 206th pick partly due to his small stature and his lack of athleticism. One thing scouts didn’t pick up on Williams was his passion for the game, which was on display Friday night when he got into a scrap with Le’Veon Bell during a drill. Williams said after the practice, “We’re just competitors going after it. When you get in a heated drill like that, he wants to win and I want to win. Things like that happen.” The guy just acts and sounds like he was meant to be on the Pittsburgh Steelers. He also talked about the physical nature of training camp, “We enjoy hitting and banging. That’s the culture the Steelers bring.” What those quotes and the scrap with Bell tell me is that Vince Williams is not about to give up his starting role to a rookie. He is going to do everything he possibly can to earn as much playing time as possible.
With that being said, whether Vince Williams starts 16 games this season or not is unimportant. He is just the type of guy you need on your football team. Williams will make everybody around him better because of his constant level of effort. His story is not that much different from a guy like James Harrison or even the great Jack Lambert. Both of those guys were overlooked during the draft due to a perceived lack of size or skill. Harrison went undrafted thanks to his height issues. That didn’t stop him from becoming a perennial pro bowler and even winning a defensive player of the year award in 2008. Jack Lambert wasn’t drafted until the second round of the 1974 draft. Apparently he held a grudge against Lynn Swann for being drafted after Swann that year. Lambert’s tall and skinny build didn’t make him look like and NFL linebacker but his career turned out pretty well.
Obviously I’m taking a bit of a leap comparing the 24 year-old Vince Williams to a Hall of Famer and a Steeler great but I am just glad that the Steelers have another person on the defensive side of the ball that has a passion for the game of football. Hopefully Vince Williams continues to impress coaches enough to earn on spot on the Steelers roster for years to come and furthermore hopefully Williams becomes a starter and defensive leader in the future.