There’s no way of getting around the fact that NFL rosters are cyclical in nature. Every year at a minimum hundreds upon hundreds of new players under the labor market for just 32 NFL teams, each of whom field 63 players per season, plus those on injured reserve.
With hundreds of players drafted every year and just as many if not more coming in as undrafted free agents, it’s inevitable that some of the 2000-plus players with NFL contracts from the season before are going to lose their spots. Some teams see far more turnover than others on a regular basis.
As we get close to the draft, I want to do some risk assessment for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster based on their current needs and how they have handled them in free agency, compared to how they typically go about handling their business in the draft.
Asset: ILB Vince Williams
Roster Vulnerability: Zero
Role Vulnerability: Low-Medium
Right off the bat, let’s just be clear that under no circumstances is Vince Williams’ roster spot in any kind of jeopardy. Even in the off chance that he ends up losing his starting job, he is still a force on special teams and would serve as an excellent reserve linebacker.
However we must consider the possibility that the Steelers are able to find a day-one rookie starter at the inside linebacker position, given the likelihood that they will address it in the first round, and the fact that that starting position could come at Williams’ expense rather than Jon Bostic’s when all is said and done.
It could simply come down to what sort of player they draft. If they end up with a Rashaan Evans or a Leighton Vander Esch, they would be capable of handling the buck, even with Bostic possessing the green dot, as he did last year for the Colts.
There could be a three-way competition in the preseason for two starting jobs. Bostic is a new face, Williams only has one year of starting experience under his belt. Neither of these roles are cemented in stone by any means.
Not that Williams necessarily needs a demotion. There is nothing from his 2017 performance that mandates he take on a lower role. But they did take him off the field a fair amount last season. If they feel more comfortable with the three-down capabilities of a rookie, this could work against him.
I get the sense that there are divisions of opinion about Williams. There are some people who love him both as a player and a personality, while others are more reserved in their praise of what he brings to the field.
Let’s not forget that the Steelers did try to replace him in free agency last year, offering a contract to Dont’a Hightower. Williams didn’t respond by making the Pro Bowl or anything, though he did record eight sacks and his first interception.