Pittsburgh Steelers third-year linebacker Vince Williams has been on quite the rollercoaster ride since being selected in the sixth-round of the 2013 NFL Draft out of Florida State.
During his rookie season, Williams, who was mostly used as a two-down player in college, started 11 games alongside Lawrence Timmons after then-starter Larry Foote was lost in the season opener to a torn biceps.
Even though Williams represented himself well in those over 400 defensive snaps played, it didn’t stop the Steelers from drafting another inside linebacker, Ryan Shazier, in the first-round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Did Shazier’s selection and subsequent immediate insertion into the offseason starting lineup catch Williams by surprise? Judging by comments made after Tuesday’s practice, it appears that was the case.
“Yeah, man, it was actually pretty horrible,” Williams said, according to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I can’t say depressing, it wasn’t that bad, but it was a little demoralizing, especially after I had a pretty solid rookie campaign.”
Even though Shazier was originally slated to play 1,000 or more snaps as a rookie, injuries that he suffered early in the season quickly changed all of that and Williams quickly found himself in a familiar role as he mostly platooned with Sean Spence until Shazier returned later in the season.
“Last year, they just plugged me in the sub-packages,” Williams noted. “We’re all interchangeable. Everybody can play.”
Williams was mostly used in the Steelers nickel defense as the buck linebacker while Spence spent most if his time in the Steelers base defense as the mack linebacker. To Williams’ credit, he has been able stay healthy since coming into the league and that’s something that Shazier and Spence both can’t say. He also has made sure to closely emulate the offseason routine of Steelers veteran outside linebacker James Harrison, so expect him to be even stronger, and perhaps even crazier, than he was before.
If things go as planned this season, Williams isn’t likely to be asked to contribute much on the defensive side of the ball, but we all know how quickly that can change. Should something happen to Timmons, Williams would more than likely be the Steelers every-down buck linebacker and thankfully he already has a lot of experience playing there.