With spring drills officially over, I think we all understand that we’re all in for a long haul, six weeks in total, between the end of minicamp and the start of training camp. You know the drill. There’s little new information coming out during this period, so it serves as the perfect time both to look back, and to look ahead.
We’re going to be focusing mostly on the latter as we prepare—ever so patiently, of course—for training camp. The Pittsburgh Steelers right now have a fairly young roster with inexperienced players that they are hoping to take on a bigger role. The problem is that in many cases, they are still waiting on those players to show them something, and that is the focus of that series—as well as the occasional veteran with lingering questions.
Show me something, Vince Williams.
And what I want to see is him potentially auditioning for a starting job in 2017, should the Steelers see a decline in Lawrence Timmons’ 2016 performance such that they will balk at re-signing him at what contract demands that he might have.
Or perhaps Vince Williams may simply outplay Timmons to the point at which they would rather have Williams starting and somebody else backing up rather than both. Or perhaps they would want to avoid the risk of losing Williams as he seeks a starting role in 2017, since both he and Timmons will be unrestricted free agents after this season, the former for the first time, the latter having already made 10s of millions.
But whether or not Williams can be starting material is really an intriguing question, and one might think that he could have the cards stacked against him as a bigger-built inside linebacker in a unit that is being increasingly rebuilt around mobility and speed.
Williams is not particularly fast, however, nor is he slow, but he hasn’t faced a great deal of tests with respect to drawing coverage assignments, though he did have a notable lapse during the preseason trying to feel out the proper Cover 2 depth and gave up a big play.
I would find it hard to imagine at this point anybody doubting whether or not Williams can be a capable reserve, as it is something that he has already spent three years doing. As a matter of fact, he even started some games during his rookie season, though he spent a lot of time on the sidelines since the Steelers chose to utilize a lot of dime personnel.
So the question for him then is not whether or not he can play in this league—he is also, by the way, a cornerstone player of the special teams units—but whether or not he has a future ahead of him brighter than his past and present. That is, can he be an every-down player, first and foremost, and can he play to a level that merits a starting job. In order to see that, it may depend on an injury, unless the staff chooses to rotate him in, which is far from unreasonable.