Vince Williams hasn’t always been a fan favorite around these parts. Not splashy enough. Not quick enough to cover. But if there’s anything we’ve seen from this defense the last two weeks, they miss #98. Keith Butler acknowledged as much speaking to the media yesterday.
“Vince has been around here a long time, he knows this defense in and out,” Butler said to reporters. “He has no hesitation on calls he has to make and stuff like that. Obviously, that would be better for us.”
Williams has essentially missed the last two weeks after getting hurt early in the Week 2 loss to Seattle. His status for Monday night remains up in the air though it appears more likely than not he misses. Williams suffered a hamstring injury early in camp and though some of that time out was likely precautionary, he still missed a month of action. Soft tissues are tricky and not something to be rushed.
In his place have been Devin Bush and Mark Barron playing nearly every down roles. Both have struggled though for different reasons. Bush is going through the growing pains of a rookie but he is improving and coming off a good game against the San Francisco 49ers, finding the ball quicker and being a sure tackler. Barron has looked every bit of his age 30 resume, struggling to find the football and at times, even showing a lack of effort.
I rarely comment on a players effort because you never really know what's going on in their head but I dare anyone to say Mark Barron is showing good effort and finish here. Jogging the whole way. #Steelers pic.twitter.com/r2QGtqau4F
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) September 23, 2019
Butler did highlight he thinks both guys are going to turn the corner and how both can keep taking steps.
“I think our inside guys are starting to improve a little bit. They will get better week to week. We have to learn to get downhill on some blocks and get on and off blocks and not try to avoid people all the time. You can’t do that all the time. Sometimes you have to take people on. We have to do a better job of that. I think we will.”
The run defense has struggled this season and especially the last two weeks. Seattle and San Fran have been able to stay on script and establish the run game, contributing to the defense wearing down at games end. Cincinnati will be as good a cure as any Monday night, currently one of the worst rushing teams in the league despite having a talented back in Joe Mixon.
The Bengals, like the 49ers, mix in playaction well and get creative offensively. Communication and sure tackling will be key to the entire defense including Barron and Bush until Williams returns and provides much needed stability and consistency.