End-of-season player exit meetings are not something that we are often privy to as outsiders of the football world. Generally, we only get a glimpse into that world when a player is asked by a reporter how the meeting went, if the player is willing to discuss it.
Still, it’s not generally a hard concept to grasp, and we have a pretty good feel by now of how Mike Tomlin and his staff likes to operate, and we see all the game film, so it’s not an overly difficult project to simulate. If we were to administer the end-of-season player exit meetings, it might go something like this.
Player: Vince Williams
Position: Inside Linebacker
Experience: 2 Years
The Steelers have seemingly managed to have surprising success with sixth-round draft picks recently, with Antonio Brown of course being the headliner there. Daniel McCullers, a sixth-rounder from a year ago, is also showing promise.
Then there’s Vince Williams, a heavy-hitting inside linebacker with a strong special teams presence, as well as starting experience, who figures to continue to provide valuable depth as he enters his third season.
In terms of depth, in fact, the Steelers should be quite pleased with what is already presented to them at the inside linebacker spot. Both of their primary reserves now have starting experience, and neither of them fell flat on their face in doing so.
The two of them—the other Sean Spence—played in a rotation at inside linebacker a year ago as the rookie starter, Ryan Shazier, sat on the sidelines with injuries. Though the bigger player of the two, it was Williams who played in sub-packages for the Steelers.
Williams only played about a quarter of the team’s defensive snaps, but he played well when he was in the game, particularly against the run, which should be no surprise. He has also shown from his rookie preseason that he is a player who can get into the backfield on a blitz from an inside position.
Early on, Williams’ playing time had been sporadic, as it was Spence rotating with the rookie. Even in the game in which Shazier was originally injured, Williams did not play. As the season progressed, however, he found himself assuming slightly more than half of the snaps at the position as the Steelers utilized their sub-package more and more.
Late in the year, Williams was struggling in pass coverage in the season finale, and he was yanked, giving more playing time to Shazier. He played only seven snaps in that game after logging at least 30 in the previous three games. His snap count was low in the playoff loss as well, which was another uneven performance.
He is a quality player, however, who is still growing. It seems unlikely at this point that he will ever get an opportunity to log a full slate of snaps in a game, which he has yet to do in his career, so perhaps we don’t know what kind of player he could become as a full-time starter.
In the meantime, he has been a bargain, both for what he has done on defense above and beyond expectations and for his continued performance on special teams.