One of the most fascinating things for me this season has been watching Vince Williams. Not just on the field, but off the field and in the media. This offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers made not one but two splashes to address his position, and at least publicly, he never blinked, but rather embraced the competition as a way in which the front office was striving to make the team better. Even if it hurt his playing time individually—and it certainly did.
As he told Gerry Dulac, after the Steelers traded up to get Devin Bush with the 10th-overall pick back in April, he pushed to get the rookie linebacker’s locker next to his. “I wanted him over here”, he said. “I felt like I had great leaders and great vets. Larry Foote, LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons. Those guys really leaned into me. There was never really a selfish vibe. They never acted like I was coming to try to take their job”.
Of course, he would end up taking Foote’s job within a week in his rookie season, though under very different circumstances, as the veteran suffered an arm injury that would shelve him for the rest of the year. Though Williams emerged as the primary linebacker in his place, the Steelers drifted to the dime as their base defense to compensate.
Still, the point is, rather than hold a grudge against Bush, as well as Mark Barron, for coming in and taking over so many of his opportunities, when he is one of the few remaining players of the old guard in the locker room, he embraced the opportunity to assist in their transition into the Steelers’ culture, and in Bush’s case, to life as a professional athlete at the highest level. And part of that is tough love.
“We tell Devin to shut up every day”, he joked—or half-joked. “He has an ego, too, you know what I mean? He knows he’s a top-10 pick”.
Bush was a day-one starter, and has a strong chance to finish his rookie season with 100 or more tackles, which would make him the first in team history to do so. He’s at 97 now, with two interceptions, a forced fumble, four recoveries, four passes defensed, a sack, and nine tackles for loss.
As for Williams, he rarely plays much more than a third of the snaps, depending upon the game and opponent circumstances, but he has accumulated 47 tackles, with four for a loss, with two and a half sacks, a pass defensed, and a recovered fumble.
Given Barron’s cap hit in 2020 and the Steelers’ likely cap space bind, Bush and Williams figure to be the pairing heading into next season. One thing we can already be assured of is that they have a strong relationship off the field, and will continue to grow on it.