The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Linebacker Vince Williams will be a full-time starter this season.
Explanation: A year after Vince Williams was the only real trusted veteran among the linebackers last season, the Steelers brought in Mark Barron in free agency. They also traded up to get Devin Bush in the draft. The three of them have been rotating with the first-team defense, including times with Bush and Barron working together, as the team determines which combination is best for their defense.
You’re asking the Steelers—Mike Tomlin and Keith Butler—to take arguably the most important position on a defense in terms of structure at inside linebacker, and start two players there who were not on the team last year.
That’s not going to happen when they have a player like Williams, who frankly remains underrated, and has been rounding out his game over the past two years in subtle but important ways. He will remain a starter, even though there will be situations in which there may be two inside linebackers on the field and he is not one of them.
Barron and Bush were brought in to play the same position: the Mack. Williams is the Buck. Neither Bush nor Barron would be best served trying to play in that Bush role on a full-time basis.
But that doesn’t mean the team might not be best-served in that fashion. If Bush and Barron display the talent level this offseason that clearly show they make the best combination for the defense, then the coaching staff is not going to hesitate to use that lineup.
Even Williams seems to realize this, as he has commented on the issues related to the possibility of losing his job. He said that he welcomes the influx of talent and the competition that comes with it, because to not do so makes you a loser without even trying.
It’s a good attitude for him to have, but that’s not going to keep him from losing.