Dave Bryan already touched on a lot of the points of emphasis that were Tweeted out by reporters during Pittsburgh Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert’s conference call with the media yesterday ahead of the start of the league meetings this week, but I wanted to go more into what he had to say about Vince Williams.
Following the free agent departure of Lawrence Timmons, who signed a two-year contract with the Dolphins worth $12 that was nearly entirely guaranteed, the Steelers’ intention at this point is to move ahead with Williams as their starting buck linebacker next to Ryan Shazier.
So why did they go out and pursue Dont’a Hightower then? According to Colbert, or at least so I read, it’s just kind of because they could. “At that point, we had more cap flexibility than we anticipated”, Colbert said according to Joe Rutter. “There still were very good players left”. Hightower was one of those good players left whom they felt they could put a solid bid in for to improve their team.
As Colbert said, “we made an attempt. It didn’t work. We’re fine, we move on”. He added, “we were very confident in Vince, which is why we signed him to an extension last year”. And later: “if it got to the point and Lawrence left us and we didn’t sign anybody from the outside, Vince was certainly capable of stepping up and being the next guy”.
While this was all more or less the assumption, this is the first time that we have been given this information concretely from somebody in the front office, so it’s at least worth emphasizing that fact. The Steelers signed Williams to a $5.5 million extension through the 2018 season as a contingency plan that they were legitimately comfortable executing.
Still, Colbert was asked if they believe that he can be an every-down player, which is of frequent concern because of his size and speed, and the general manager acknowledged that “that remains to be seen”. But he was open to any and all possibilities.
“I never say they can until they do, and I never say they can’t until they don’t”, Colbert said of speaking about a player’s limitations, which the team prefers to allow players to define for themselves rather than have it defined for them.
“We have to see. It doesn’t mean that position doesn’t get supplemented in the draft process. We also have some other young guys” he said, referring to L.J. Fort, Steven Johnson, and Tyler Matakevich, the latter a 2016 seventh-round draft pick.
“Maybe they’ll step up and push”, he said in reference to their inside linebacker depth. “The depth we need we may already have. We never know until they get out there and play 16 games. But I wouldn’t say they can’t until they don’t”.
I know that many have grown frustrated with Colbert and the front office in how they handle things at this time of year, but I’ve always felt his objective reasoning to be a source of comfort in knowing that there is a plan, that it has worked in the past, and that it is not deviated from. Vince Williams is the plan for now, but the draft could still shape how this plays out.