Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Vince Williams has been logging the majority of the snaps alongside Lawrence Timmons over the course of the last several weeks, after hardly seeing any time in the beginning of the season.
Of course, rookie Ryan Shazier was the starting inside linebacker at the beginning of the season, but because he’s missed so much time, has supposedly not impressed coaches in practice, and has given those who were behind him the opportunity to show what they could do, he’s currently not much of a factor.
While Sean Spence tends to start the games when the Steelers come out in their base package, Williams plays in the nickel, which is what the team runs most often, so Williams winds up taking most of the snaps.
While his is the reputation of a run stuffer, he did show up fairly well in pass coverage against the Atlanta Falcons, which is, of course, vital when playing in sub-packages.
One play after Timmons himself got injured, Williams and Spence ended up playing together, which I don’t believe had happened before up to that point. On second and nine, Williams dropped back into zone coverage while the Falcons countered with a screen pass.
Spence ran himself out of the play by taking the outside angle trying to get around the blocking offensive lineman, but it was Williams who was able to work his way around the blockers to make the shoestring tackle, even if it went for a first down.
At the end of the first half, with the Falcons set up deep in their own territory, the Steelers were just looking to keep Atlanta in front of them so as not to get beat deep over the top. Williams dropped and gave ground to the running back, who got the pass, but Williams showed well in making up ground to make the tackle, even if he took a shot from Timmons for his efforts.
Of course, not every one of his 35 snaps was flawless. While he made a combined seven tackles in the game, he also missed this one trying to bring down Steven Jackson after breaking out into the second level.
Williams started off by doing a good job of getting by the guard moving up to the second level, and he got to the running back in a hurry, but when Jackson elevated, he was unable to get a proper grip to make a tackle and the back ended up with an extra five or six yards.
Later on the drive, on a first and 10, Williams broke on a pass over the middle to a cutting Devin Hester and chased him down, bottling him up after a gain of eight yards. As long as Williams continues to fulfill his obligations in the passing game as well as this, he should continue to see playing time in the nickel defense.