With the Pittsburgh Steelers having completed the first portion of their season, now would be as good a time as any to take a look back on what’s transpired this year and give out some midseason player evaluations.
The team has had a rocky but ultimately successful season to date, coming out of the first six games with a winning record despite being 1-2-1 just two weeks ago. Coming off of consecutive strong victories with improve play from both sides of the ball, things are looking up.
The offense has done its part for the most part, but has taken some long vacations. Their disappearing acts in the second half was perplexing, but that has improved. Defensively, the secondary is seemingly becoming a bit more stable after being nothing short of terrible previously, but there are absolutely some real concerns remaining.
Player: Vince Williams, ILB
Vince Williams became an every-down linebacker this year for the first time in his career. The results, individually at least, have not been terrible. Although he missed a game due to injury—for the very first time in his entire career—Williams has generally performed as would be expected of him.
Which is enough. While he is not going to be mistaken for Ryan Shazier or Lawrence Timmons at his peak, he has done well overall in sliding into the play-calling role, putting up 36 tackles and a sack so far this season in five games. He is coming off arguably his best game of the year with seven tackles and the sack.
This being the first time he has been charged on a full-time basis to set the defense, there were some growing pains at the beginning of the season, but they have quieted down in recent weeks, which has been evident on the field.
That said, there are issues in his game. Despite being a bigger linebacker, he does struggle to get off of blocks more often than you would expect, though he has been better in making his reads to the hole this season, which he uncharacteristically was inconsistent with a year ago.
He has also done reasonably well when asked to cover man to man, albeit not when he is schemed into covering an outside wide receiver, but zone coverage has been mixed, chiefly in terms of the standard Cover 2 in which he still fails to drop to the appropriate depth.
The bottom line is that he is who he is, and he’s also not going anywhere. Not only is he under contract for a while, the Steelers also don’t have anybody to replace him with. While L.J. Fort and Tyler Matakevich did a commendable job filling in for him in the one game that he missed, that is not a long-term solution.