Vince Williams could be having flashbacks to 2014, entering his second season, when the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Ryan Shazier and immediately plugged him in as the starter over him. Williams was a sixth-round pick but had been the primary starter as a rookie the previous year after Larry Foote was injured, and he felt he deserved an opportunity to keep his job.
This year, they signed Mark Barron in free agency, and then they traded up in the first round to draft Devin Bush. And there have been plenty of times during the first week of OTAs in which both Barron and Bush were on the field running with the first-team defense while he was watching.
He’s not sweating it. He welcomes it.
“If I wanted to have better stats, I could’ve (gone) to a sorrier team and I could’ve been the best linebacker on one of those units”, the eighth-year veteran told Kevin Gorman for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “The more great linebackers you have on one team, the better your team is. Anybody who don’t think like that, you’re a loser”.
And when he says ‘loser’, he means somebody with a losing mentality, somebody whose goal in this game is not to be a winner and to be a champion. Because, as he made it very clear to Gorman when he interviewed the linebacker during OTAs, that above everything else is what drives him forward.
“I want to win. Make sure you write this: I want to win. I’m a winner. Losing sucks. If you make 200 tackles and you lose, you’re a loser. Vince Williams is a winner”, he said. “There ain’t no egos. No need be coy about it. We didn’t make the playoffs last year. We feel like we’re a championship-caliber unit. So everybody is embarrassed and pissed off”.
Last season, the Steelers got off to a hectic 1-2-1 start to the season before rattling off six straight wins, at which point they were in position to control their fate for a bye week for the second season in a row. Only this time, they stalled to the finish line, losing four of their final six games, going 9-6-1, and missing the postseason.
Much of the blame does lie on the defense, which surrendered the game-winning or -tying points in the fourth quarter of five of the seven games that they failed to win. The offense also led multiple comeback drives in the fourth quarter, one or two of which the defense gave back.
It’s certainly quite possible that the additions of Barron and Bush could eat into Williams’ playing time. long-term, it might even cost him his starting job. If that makes the team better and helps them win, however, he’s going to support it and he’s going to do what he can to make those on the field be better versions of themselves. Because that’s what leaders, and winners, do.