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 enter the labor market for just 32 NFL teams, each of whom field 63 players per season, plus those on injured reserve and other non-active lists.
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: Nil
Role Vulnerability: Low/Low-Medium
It’s likely that the Steelers are going to do everything that they can to come out of the 2019 NFL Draft with an inside linebacker that they believe is going to be capable of being a starter sooner rather than later. They expressed disappointment in their failure to do so last year and even suggested it played a role in their 9-6-1 season.
What does that mean for Williams? It’s hard to say, beyond that it would be hard to envision is impacting him a great deal. In order for him to be bumped out of the starting lineup, for example, the team would have to judge Mark Barron to be their top inside linebacker and also determine that their rookie draft pick has more to offer than Williams.
I think a worst-case scenario is that perhaps Williams sees a greater share of his snaps taken away as they use more athletic personnel, whether that includes a rookie linebacker or perhaps even a defensive backs if he is the one to leave the field in the dime defense.
On average, since entering the starting lineup, the veteran tends to play about 800 or so snaps per season, which is , very roughly, in the ballpark of about 75 percent of the team’s defensive snaps in a given year.
It’s almost impossible to even argue that his roster spot would be vulnerable due to a draft pick, however. It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which he isn’t at least the third-best inside linebacker on the team in 2019.
That said, his employment security is greater than his job security. There does exist the possibility of losing his starting job, or at least seeing a rotation at his spot, similar to how Lawrence Timmons was used as a rookie with Larry Foote.