Vince Williams recently signed a 3-year extension with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and although many fans are left pondering the implications this will have on longtime ILB Lawrence Timmons, many are excited for the vibrant and instrumental player’s future in the city of Pittsburgh.
Williams was able to exemplify some of that aggressiveness during Friday night’s matchup against the New Orleans Saints, recording 9 total tackles and becoming a lightning rod for big plays (some of which were unfortunately deemed illegal). Astonishingly, four of those were at or behind the line of scrimmage, which is absolutely mind numbing and says a lot about his mental game as well as his physical. But, before we dive into his preseason play, let’s take a look at some of his 2015 numbers.
Last year’s campaign was but a tease for what the bigger picture holds for Vince Williams. Although he played in a part-time role, he was dynamic when his number was called upon. In 196 snaps, he missed only two tackles, and produced a total of 13 tackles at, or behind the line of scrimmage.
Now, as I wrote in my last article regarding Ryan Shazier, missed tackles are debilitating and deflating- it’s incredibly frustrating, for players, coaches and fans, to watch the opposing team rack up yards in whiffs and botches. There’s no question that his strength lays in the run game, and missed tackles are a rarity when throwing 98’s name into the mix; he pretty much throws his body around as accurately as a Le’Veon Bell-timed juke.
Where he struggled was in the air, as he allowed 14 of the 15 passes directed in his vicinity, recording one lone pass defended; those also yielded 60 yards after the catch. He’ll have to focus and work on his coverage abilities, but he has a good foundation to work with.
Taking a look at his play from Friday night, it’s easy to see some of the above mentioned numbers come to fruition- he flew around like a cannon, and forced the Saints’ offense to make note when he was on the field. His closing speed and sure-minded contact allow for some pretty hefty highlights, as seen below.
Now, although this was flagged for head-to-head contact, it’s easy to see in slow motion that he lead with his shoulder and dislodged the ball from RB Daniel Lasco’s body in a violent, but clean fashion. As we’ve seen with the new-age NFL, big collisions are usually flagged regardless of the contact point. It’s something Williams will have to keep in mind going forward, but it shouldn’t change his style of play; it’s one of his strong suites and characteristics that make him who he is on the field.
Fast-forward to end of the same drive, and he’s the catalyst who puts the ball back into his offense’s hands- call it karma, but you can’t take away from the great play it was. His recognition and diagnosis of the play occurs in a flash, shifting his body once before he ploughs downhill and makes the solo tackle; his instincts lunge him toward RB Tim Hightower, whose been known to lower the boom and roll over competition from time to time.
What’s also great is to appreciate his Bell-type patience; as opposed to throwing his body at the blockade that quickly forms in the B gap, he continues to diagnose and jolts only when the ball carrier becomes visible. And, like we’ve come to appreciate, that tackle is solid, halting Hightower in his tracks.
No one fully knows what the future has in store for Vince Williams, but it’s clear he has the recipe to be an impact player. He’s been incredibly solid, and fans should be excited about his potential going forward. It’ll be interesting to see what the 2016 season brings for Williams, and how he builds on what he’s created thus far.