Being as Pittsburgh Steelers rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier has missed quite a few games so far this season with injuries, the team has had to use Sean Spence and Vince Williams in games in order to replace him. During his press conference last Tuesday, head coach Mike Tomlin wouldn’t reveal his strategy when it comes to using Spence and Williams with Shazier sidelined, but thanks to what we observed Sunday in the loss to the New York Jets, we now have a pretty good idea as to what he and the rest of the coaching staff thinks about both of those players.
According to our defensive charting of the Jets game that Alex Kozora compiled, Spence played exclusively in the Steelers base defense alongside Lawrence Timmons, while Williams played exclusively in the nickel.
When Spence was in the game, he played more of a mack linebacker role while Williams played more as a buck when he was on the field. This rotation certainly makes sense as it allows Timmons to play either the mack or buck role. It also allows the defense to best maximize what Spence and Williams each do best.
We should get a pretty good idea Tuesday from head coach Mike Tomlin as to whether or not Shazier will make back this week for the upcoming game against the Tennessee Titans. If Shazier’s unable to shake his ankle injury this week, I think we can expect Spence and Williams to continue to split his snaps against the Titans based on personnel groupings.
If, however, Shazier is able to return this week for the Titans game, it will be interesting to see if they allow him to play every snap being as he’s missed so much playing time this season.