The calendar has now flipped over to July and that means the Pittsburgh Steelers annual training camp will be getting underway in Latrobe later this month. As usual, we have several series planned to get you ready for this year’s training camp and mine will center around preview profiles of 50 players over the course of the next 25 days. Most of these profiles will be on players who were under contract with the team in 2016.
Up eighteenth in this series is a 2017 preview profile of inside linebacker Vince Williams.
Intro: While he played less than 300 defensive snaps during the 2016 regular season, Williams made the most of his playing time. Starting in place of Ryan Shazier in Week 4, he registered a whopping 16 total tackles in that contest with one of them coming on special teams. He would go on to start the next three games in place of the then-injured Shazier before returning to his customary role as a backup and core special teams player. He ended the regular season with 47 total tackles and two sacks. Seven of those tackles came on special teams.
Current Strengths: Williams’ physicality is his main calling card at this point of his career and it was very evident last season not only on defense but special teams as well. His main strength outside of that on the inside is his play downhill and that’s pretty much been the case with him dating back to his college career at FSU. Williams’ kamikaze-type mentality helps him tremendously against the run and on special teams and he’s shined as a core player since entering the NFL.
Current Weaknesses: Williams’ main weakness is perhaps his dropping ability and especially when asked to man the deep middle of the field as he at times has struggled to get the proper depth in a quick enough amount of time. While he has made some strides in his coverage abilities, Williams is still a liability overall in that area outside of zone drops. Against the run, he has had a few too many overran plays during his career and he needs to become more sound with his run fills.
2017 Outlook: With longtime starter Lawrence Timmons now gone, Williams should be the team’s new starter alongside Shazier in 2017. While the two players have been on the same team together for three seasons now, 2017 will mark the first real amount of time they have played together on the field. Williams should assume Timmons’ old role and depending on what the Steelers decide to do sub-package-wise in 2017, he might find himself removed from the field in lieu of an extra defensive back quite a bit. Regardless, he should still see the most defensive playing time of his career in 2017 and thus should post career-highs in total tackles with a sack or three mixed in and hopefully a few forced fumbles. With him now being a starter, Williams’ time on special teams might also come to an end in 2017 and those will be tough shoes to fill if that’s ultimately the case.
2017 Base Salary: $2,000,000
2017 Salary Cap Charge: $2,500,000
2017 Health Status: Underwent offseason shoulder surgery but expected to be ready for training camp
2016 Health Status: Zero games missed last season due to injury
2016 Regular Season Snaps Played: 269 of 1,046
2016 Stat That Matters: 16 total tackles in first start of the season against the Kansas City Chiefs