Now that the 2020 offseason has begun, following a second consecutive season in which they failed to even reach the playoffs, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past season, and with notice to anything that happens going forward.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we move forward.
Player: ILB Vince Williams
Stock Value: Up
Here’s an obvious one that we haven’t gotten to yet. Vince Williams. His stock clearly went up significantly since the start of the new league year, or at least shortly just before it, as he essentially went from bring a rotational backup to a starter.
The difference was the team’s decision to release Mark Barron, whom they signed to a two-year, $12 million contract last offseason and brought in to be a starter. But then after doing that, they also drafted Devin Bush. The two of them played the lion’s share of snaps at inside linebacker last season, though Williams still got his opportunities here and there.
That still meant going from playing 750 or so snaps to under 400. He actually played a few more snaps on defense during his rookie season back in 2013 than he did last year. He was a full-time starter in 2017 and 2018 after Lawrence Timmons left in free agency, logging not far from double that amount of snaps.
With Barron gone, Williams moves back into the starting lineup, where he should be expected to return to roughly the same workload that we saw in his first two years as a starter, though that could see an uptick to closer to 800 or even 850. He logged almost 750 snaps in 2018 despite missing two games, after all.
It’s hard to see the Steelers using a significant draft pick to address the position this year, and even if they did, that player would not start the way Bush, who was the 10th-overall pick, did a year ago, and not just because the offseason will be limited.
But that doesn’t grant Williams immunity. Some are anticipating that second-year linebacker Ulysees Gilbert III, who is much more athletic and fits the profile of a coverage linebacker, could work his way into the lineup and eat away at some of his snaps, particularly in sub-packages on passing downs. Whether or not it plays out this way remains to be seen, but with Barron gone, he clearly is in line for a significant increase in snaps.