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Keith Butler: Vince Williams To Have Expanded Role

Vince Williams took a bit of a backseat last season, logging barely over 400 snaps as Mark Barron and Devin Bush saw the field most of the time. Defensive coordinator Keith Butler said today Williams will have a bigger role in 2020.

Here’s what Butler said via a Zoom call, per the PPG’s Ray Fittipaldo.

Here’s the full quote from Butler, via the team website.ย 

“As we went back and looked at our (2019) video and graded ourselves, if anything went wrong with our defense it was more on our communication, and really on our secondary communication. There’s primary communication, which starts at the first part of the play, and as the play starts to play out a little bit there’s secondary communication when sometimes you have to make adjustments. And Vince is real good at doing that for us and getting the calls to the guys and making sure they know that we’re all on the same page. That’s big for us, and that’s what Vince Williams brings to the table.”

Though the Steelers’ defense played at a high level last season, communication was a bit of an issue. The team had many new faces to the lineup – CB Steven Nelson, ILB Mark Barron, not to mention trading for FS Minkah Fitzpatrick during the season.

And they lacked an every-down signal caller. Early in the year, TJ Watt wore the green dot (the player who hears all the calls from the sideline) with disastrous results whenever he came off the field. The role seemed to shift around the rest of the season with Barron being the every-down linebacker. But he was new to the Steelers’ system and described by Mike Tomlin as “mute.” Not the ideal person to handle communication.

Williams has a different style. Much more vocal, more more energetic, much more apt at getting players lined up properly. This is a perfect example from last season against the Chargers.

But Williams played mainly in the team’s base 3-4 defense, logging just 401 defensive snaps. It’s possible he sees a snap count much closer to 2017 and 2018, where he played 738 and 745 snaps respectively. The team could also find a compromise of playing him more but also using more dime packages, subbing him out for a dimebacker safety like Terrell Edmunds.

Looking ahead, it’s also possible 2020 is Williams’ final year. His contract runs through 2021 but with the looming cap crunch, he may become a financial causality. Replacing him either means continued progression from Ulysees Gilbert III or an out-of-house replacement via the draft.

A 6th round pick in 2013, Williams has recorded 409 tackles, 17.5 sacks and two interceptions with the Steelers.

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