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: 2020 will be Vince Williams’ final season in Pittsburgh.
Explanation: The Steelers already saw fit to ‘upgrade’ his position last year by bringing in Devin Bush and Mark Barron. Though Barron was released, in no small part due to salary cap concerns, Williams’ contract for 2021 will also be a candidate for cost-cutting, and the potential emergence of Ulysees Gilbert III could factor into the conversation as well.
Let’s be realistic. The game isn’t played the way Vince Williams plays it at inside linebacker anymore. 15 years ago, he would have been a very good inside linebacker, potentially. In today’s game, he is limited, and in many situations, a liability.
Even with himself and the team defending his coverage ability, he is, at best, adequate at it, and that could be tied to the fact that they frequently remove him from the field in situations in which he would have otherwise been asked to cover. That isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement.
With the salary cap plummeting next year, potentially by as much as about $23 million against this year’s cap, the Steelers are going to be pinching pennies, and Williams does have a juicy $4 million base salary in 2021 that could help a little. Gilbert is coming up. And who’s to say Robert Spillane can’t play the ‘buck’? Williams was just a sixth-round pick himself.
While it seems that Gilbert and Spillane have a lot of fans in their corner (I happen to believe in their potential myself), the inescapable reality is that they are completely unproven and untested in any meaningful defensive situation. Neither of them have ever played a defensive snap in a regular season or postseason game, or in a game in which there was a game plan.
Williams continues to be an overlooked and underrated player, and as far as his cap hit is concerned, they could give him a contract extension that would lower his cap hit a bit. A $4 million base salary for a starting linebacker is cheap, anyway.