Now that the 2018 NFL Draft is in the books, and the roster heading into the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we head toward training camp.
Player: ILB Vince Williams
Stock Value: Up
It goes without saying that during a draft in which many anticipated the Steelers would come away with a starter at the inside linebacker position, everybody else’s value there goes up when the team fails to deliver such a player. Bringing in a starter would have knocked everybody down a peg. That didn’t happen.
And so the team’s presumed starters at inside linebacker are safe. I’ve already talked about Jon Bostic in this series, but the absence of reinforcements at the position are as crucial, if not even more so, for their other projected starter, Vince Williams.
Heading into his sixth season as a former sixth-round draft pick, Williams entered the starting lineup full-time last season after Lawrence Timmons left in free agency. He produced some splash with his first career interception and a huge eight sacks, the third-most by an off-ball linebacker in team history in a single season.
But as evidenced by the fact that he only picked up 89 tackles on the season despite playing in and starting all 16 games, he spent a good chunk of his time off the field. Roughly a quarter of the Steelers’ defensive snaps saw them take Williams off the field and put an extra defensive back on the field in his place.
We knew that was coming and we knew it would continue long before the Steelers added another dime defender in Terrell Edmunds in the first round. It’s possible—quite possible—that the team spends even more time this season with six defensive backs on the field.
But that doesn’t come close to comparing to the sort of impact his value would have taken if they actually managed to draft one of the top linebackers, reportedly even attempting to make a trade up for Rashaan Evans, who was the last to go off in the early 20s.
For now, Williams stock is clearly up when considering what the Steelers could have done to address his position. Could it change later this summer, for instance if they give Tyler Matakevich an opportunity to compete for his job, or at least a role? Sure. But we’re a way off from that right now.