It’s been quite an offseason for Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Vince Williams as not only did he have to undergo shoulder surgery, he also had to sit back and watch the team court Dont’a Hightower during free agency in addition to waiting to see if the team would spend an early-round draft pick on another inside linebacker.
Not only did the Steelers fail to sign Hightower, who decided to re-up with the New England Patriots, the team ultimately didn’t draft another inside linebacker with any of their eight selections. During a recent interview with Adam Crowley of Steelers Nation Radio, Williams was asked how it feels to be the presumed 2017 starter alongside Ryan Shazier now that former longtime starter Lawrence Timmons has moved on to the Miami Dolphins via free agency.
“I don’t really know how I feel about that question. I’ve been presented with it a multitude of times this offseason, but I don’t really take anything for granted,” Williams said. “And after what happened to me with the drafting of Ryan [Shazier], I’m not in the position to take anything for granted. I don’t think I’m the kind of person, anyway, who could ever be comfortable. So, especially not after that happening, my first year. Right now, I’m just trying to compete.”
As Williams eluded to, the Steelers drafted fellow inside linebacker Ryan Shazier in the first-round of the 2014 NFL Draft and that was one year after he was drafted in the sixth-round. The drafting of Shazier came after Williams started 11 games during his rookie season in which he registered 53 total tackles.
Since his rookie season, Williams has played in 48 consecutive regular season games of which he had to start six of them due to Shazier being out injured. He played well enough to warrant him being given a two-year extension prior to the start of the 2016 regular season. Williams, more than anything right now, is chomping at the bit to show that he deserves to be the starter alongside Shazier moving forward.
“Absolutely, I more than know what I’m capable of,” Williams said. “I think my teammates know what I’m capable of and I’m just grateful I have the opportunity to go out there and show everybody else what I’m capable of.”
Despite the Steelers interest in Hightower during free agency, Williams believes the front office and coaching staff still has confidence in him as a starter moving forward as well.
“I’ve talked to Kevin Colbert about it and Mike Tomlin about it,” Williams said. “I just think they just feel comfortable with what I was able to do. If you look at the things I provided the team in the absence of Shazier and I wasn’t necessarily playing the position that I’ll be able to play now, which is actually more comfortable for me. So, if they see what I was able to provide and they think that they know they can just bank on that.”
Williams also was asked what its like to play alongside Shazier in the Steelers defense.
“It’s fun, really,” said Williams. “Ryan is extremely athletic, so just being out there with him and also, his communication skills are great. I feel like we do a great job of playing in tandem and the synergy is awesome. And just being able to be on the field with him and just watch him do some of those freakish-type things he does is really exciting.”
While it’s yet to be seen if Williams recovery from shoulder surgery will prevent him from taking part in the team’s upcoming OTA sessions, you can probably count on him being ready to go by the start of training camp in late July.
“I’m just ready for football to start, just entirely,” Williams said. “I like working out, but I’m a big fan of being out there with my teammates and actually getting to play football and being back on the grass and the competitive nature of going against the offense and things like that.”