2016 South Side Questions: What Does Vince Williams’ New Deal Mean For Lawrence Timmons?

Training camp has ended, and the Pittsburgh Steelers have reverted back to taking their practices at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While training camp might have seen a lot of work put into the team and the roster, there is plenty left to be done.

And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well, since training camp is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is really one that lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the preseason looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they head into a regular season in which they are, at least supposed to be, among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.

Question: Is Vince Williams’ contract extension a signal of the end in Pittsburgh for Lawrence Timmons?

The news came quietly yesterday evening, and surprisingly, that the Steelers agreed with Vince Williams on a new three-year contract. The fourth-year inside linebacker was entering the final season of his rookie contract and was scheduled to hit free agency next season.

Also pending to hit free agency in 2016 was Timmons, the Steelers’ first-round draft pick in 2007, and full-time starter since 2009. While his overall play has declined in recent years, particularly with respect to speed and tackling efficiency, he still put up a worthy stat line last season.

Having turned just 30, Timmons is not the typical 10-year veteran, having entered the league at a young age, and one would think that he still has a lot of tread on his tires. But whether that tread would be worth what the Steelers would be willing to pay on a third contract might be another matter. And that begs the question that everybody will no doubt be asking. What does Williams’ new deal mean for Timmons?

Williams has quietly bided his time since being thrust into a quasi-starting role his rookie season. in spite of being essentially the fourth player on the depth chart, he has seen his share of time on the field, mostly due to injuries, over the past two seasons.

It may well be that his signing a new deal is a signaling of the front office’s intentions to move away from Timmons after this season, and that 2016 will serve as a transition year as Williams assumes the starting mantle in 2017.

It may also be that the Steelers simply wanted to assure that they have secured their depth, as they lost two of their top five at the position in free agency this spring, and only Ryan Shazier among the rostered players in 2015 were under contract beyond this season.

The true answer may lie somewhere in between, or more specifically, nowhere, as the Steelers use this season to weigh their options going forward. There is certainly nothing set in stone as far as 2017 goes with regard to the inside linebacker position, short of Shazier starting and Williams being on the roster.

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