While all sacks are created equal in a game book or on a stat sheet, not all of them really are when you look at why and how each one happened. Throughout the offseason I plan on looking at each of 56 sacks the Pittsburgh Steelers defense registered during the 2017 regular season and attempt to contextualize each of them. This process should help identify which defensive players are earning their sacks more than others.
We’ll continue on with this series of posts by looking at and contextualizing the eight sacks that Steelers inside linebacker Vince Williams registered during the 2017 season.
Sack #1 – Week 2 vs. Vikings – 4Q – 1-10-MIN 22 – (9:12) (Shotgun) C.Keenum sacked at MIN 12 for -10 yards (V.Williams) – TIME 2.70 seconds
Williams’ first sack of the season came in Week 2 against the Minnesota Vikings and in the fourth quarter. On this first and 10 play, the Steelers drop 7 into coverage after showing a stacked line. Williams is one of four pass rushers and after getting easy access to the pocket through the B-gap, the Vikings running back misses Williams after executing a play-action fake. Williams is then afforded a very easy sack of quarterback Case Keenum.
Sack #2 – Week 5 vs. Jaguars – 2Q – 1-10-PIT 42 – (3:26) (Shotgun) B.Bortles sacked at JAX 48 for -10 yards (V.Williams) – TIME 3.85 seconds
Williams’ second sack of the season came in Week 5 against the Jacksonville Jaguars and in the second quarter on a 1st and 10 play. Williams effectively blitzes on the strong-side and through the B-gap and the Jaguars rookie running back fails to properly square the linebacker up at the line of scrimmage. Williams easily gets by the Jaguars running back to the inside and that results in him getting free run at quarterback Blake Bortles.
Sack #3 – Week 6 vs. Chiefs – 2Q – 1-10-KC 37 – (1:21) (No Huddle, Shotgun) A.Smith sacked at KC 31 for -6 yards (V.Williams) – TIME 3.71 seconds
Williams’ third sack of the season came in Week 6 against the Kansas City Chiefs and again in the second quarter and on a 1st and 10 play. This time, however, Williams comes from the weak-side through the B-gap and once again he is met by a rookie running back. Williams steamrolls the young running back with ease and this results in a sack of Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, who failed to get the football out to an open receiver to his left..
Sack #4 – Week 6 vs. Chiefs – 2Q – 2-21-KC 26 – (:28) (Shotgun) A.Smith sacked at KC 17 for -9 yards (V.Williams) – TIME 3.90 seconds
A few plays after registering his first sack against the Chiefs, Williams notched his second and final one of the game on a 2nd and very long play with 28-seconds remaining in the half. On this play, Williams once again steamrolls the same rookie running back after rushing off the left edge of the Steelers defense. Another well-earned sack by Williams and another lesson for the Chiefs running back.
Sack #5 – Week 10 vs. Colts – 4Q – 2-10-IND 25 – (11:48) (Shotgun) J.Brissett sacked at IND 21 for -4 yards (V.Williams) – TIME 5.75 seconds
Williams’ fifth sack of the season came in Week 10 against the Indianapolis Colts and on a fourth quarter, 2nd and 10 play. On this play, the Steelers defense runs a weak-side blitz complete with the slot cornerback coming off the edge. Williams is the spy in the middle of the field on this play and sacks Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett as he attempts to escape the pocket following some blitz pressure.
Sack #6 – Week 11 vs. Titans – 4Q – 1-10-TEN 19 – (5:14) (Shotgun) M.Mariota sacked at TEN 10 for -9 yards (V.Williams) – TIME 3.20 seconds
Williams’ sixth sack of the season came in Week 11 against the Tennessee Titans. This time, Williams comes free through the B-gap and the Titans running back blows the recognition and pick up. Williams gets an easy run at Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota and easily finishes him off for the sack.
Sack #7 – Week 13 vs. Bengals – 4Q – 1-10-CIN 21 – (10:02) A.Dalton sacked at CIN 13 for -8 yards (V.Williams) – TIME 2.90 seconds
Williams’ seventh sack of the season came in Week 13 against the Cincinnati Bengals and once again, on a 1st and 10 play. Once again, Williams comes free and untouched through the B-gap on the weak-side of the formation and that results in an easy sack of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton.
Sack #8 – Week 17 vs. Browns – 2Q – 1-10-CLV 27 – (:29) (Shotgun) D.Kizer sacked at CLV 24 for -3 yards (J.Haden) – TIME 3.20 seconds
Williams’ eighth and final sack of the season came in Week 17 against the Cleveland Browns. On this 1st and 10 play, the Steelers defense shows a loaded front and the appearance that more than four players might be rushing. At the snap, however, the Steelers drop 7 players into coverage and Williams is one of four players to rush the quarterback and he does so through an open B-gap. The Browns running back is too concerned that the safety to his side might be rushing and that in turn makes him slow getting over to pick up Williams. Williams has a nice head of steam and a good angle and blows right by the running back for the sack of DeShone Kizer.
Summary: If there’s one thing we learned about Williams as a pass rusher during the 2017 season, it’s that running backs don’t want any part of him. Sure, he had a few sacks that were a result of poor scheme and missed assignments against him but in addition to that, he completely destroyed a few other running backs. Just as he showed at FSU, Williams can move on a downhill straight line in a hurry and with force. He’s a very physical and intimidating player and especially as a pass rusher. While 8 sacks in a single season isn’t likely to be obtained by Williams moving forward, it goes without saying that he should be able to get at least half that amount during the 2018 season.
Contextualizing The Steelers 2017 Sack Production: OLB Bud Dupree
Contextualizing The Steelers 2017 Sack Production: OLB Anthony Chickillo
Contextualizing The Steelers 2017 Sack Production: OLB James Harrison
Contextualizing The Steelers 2017 Sack Production: DE Tyson Alualu
Contextualizing The Steelers 2017 Sack Production: DE L.T. Walton
Contextualizing The Steelers 2017 Sack Production: DE Stephon Tuitt
Contextualizing The Steelers 2017 Sack Production: NT Javon Hargrave
Contextualizing The Steelers 2017 Sack Production: OLB T.J. Watt
Contextualizing The Steelers 2017 Sack Production: ILB L.J. Fort
Contextualizing The Steelers 2017 Sack Production: CB Mike Hilton
Contextualizing The Steelers 2017 Sack Production: ILB Sean Spence
Contextualizing The Steelers 2017 Sack Production: CB Joe Haden