You might as well have the fact that Vince Williams was a sixth-round pick committed to memory, because he sure does. It seems to be a regular point of focus for him, and not something that he views as a negative, but rather as a reminder of where he came from, and of the fact that you are not defined by first impressions, that you can change perception.
But the sixth-year Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker isn’t spending much time thinking about changing people’s minds about himself as a player, either. He told Kevin Gorman that he’s well aware of the fact that there are fans out there who still think he needs to be replaced in the starting lineup.
“I’m not worrying about solidifying myself or anybody’s opinions of what they think I can and can’t do. I’m just trying to be the best linebacker I can be and win the Super Bowl”, he told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporter. “If that’s doing the same thing as I did last year, that’s what I’m going to do. If my role has to increase, then I’m going to do that, too”.
Williams replaced Lawrence Timmons in the starting lineup last season when the latter departed in free agency. While he was the starter, the Steelers did sub him out of the game for an extra defensive back roughly a quarter of the time.
He finished with 88 tackles on the season, a career-high and the third-most on the team behind Ryan Shazier, who had one more, and Sean Davis, who had two more. He was second on the team, however, with eight sacks, a number that would have led the team in most of their recent seasons. He also recorded his first interception.
Williams actually was a starter by title for the majority of his rookie season after Larry Foote suffered a season-ending injury in the opener, but they made extensive use of the dime package that year, which in many cases resulted in him coming off the field for more than half of the team’s defensive snaps.
Now he is entering his second season as a full-time starter, and in an even bigger role as the leader of the inside linebackers on the field now that Shazier is sidelined indefinitely. He will be lining up either with Jon Bostic or Tyler Matakevich when the regular season starts, neither of whom have started a game in Pittsburgh. The former was brought over in free agency, starting 14 games for the Colts in 2017.
Any way you look at it, the Florida State has come a long way since the 2013 NFL Draft, entering the league as the 206th-overall pick. “You can’t really measure somebody’s heart, their willingness to get better, how they’re going to transform their bodies, the dedication they’re going to put into the game”, he told Gorman. It doesn’t matter how you got to be where you are. What matters is what you do once you get there.