With the 2016 NFL Draft now over and the bulk of the heavy lifting done with regard to the roster building process now out of the way, it is easier to begin to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand at certain positions, and what the implications might be of a variety of moves for certainly players.
And take stock is what we shall do, as every move has ramifications up and down the roster, so now we will take a look at some specific players and see how the team’s moves during the course of the offseason thus far, and more specifically since the draft, has sent their stock rising or falling.
Player: ILB Vince Williams
Stock Value: Up
I think perhaps more than any player on the roster, or certainly at least most, the stock of fourth-year inside linebacker Vince Williams is up this offseason. And that’s not because he is expected to move into the starting lineup or anything like that, by any means. But he has undoubtedly moved up the depth chart.
The Steelers entered the 2015 season with five inside linebackers, and two of them are gone. Among those two was Sean Spence, who has served as the primary reserve inside linebacker for the past two seasons, and as a result has started a lot of games and played hundreds and hundreds of snaps due to injuries.
Of course, nobody is rooting for injuries, but history has shown, at least thus far, that injuries have been a part of Ryan Shazier’s total package. He missed nearly half of his rookie season in 2014 and missed four starts, plus parts of other games, due to injury, which opened a window for hundreds of snaps’ worth of playing time.
Most of those snaps went to Spence, but now they will figure to go to Williams, who is the only inside linebacker on the team behind the starters who has at least a full year’s worth of experience in the system.
Also potentially boosting his stock is the aging of Lawrence Timmons, who will soon turn 30, but is entering his 10th season, meaning he has significant wear even for a player just hitting 30. The Steelers started to take him off the field to add a defensive back late in the year. Perhaps this year they will start to rotate him out to give Williams a series or two, similar to how they used James Farrior in his final season.
The team did add Steven Johnson in free agency and Tyler Matakevich during the draft. They also return L.J. Fort and Jordan Zumwalt from last season, the former primarily from the practice squad and the latter from two years’ worth of injured reserve.
But all of them are decidedly behind Williams on the depth chart, who potentially stands to play a bigger role on defense in his contract season, which could have an impact on whether or not the team sees him as a future starter when or if they need, or decide, to replace Timmons, who is also in the last year of his contract.