Now that the 2020 regular season 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 are seeing over the course of the season as it plays out. Who is making plays? Who is missing them? Who is losing snaps? Who is struggling to stay on the field?
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. 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 season as we move forward.
Player: ILB Vince Williams
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: Although it is proving to be the case that he is losing some snaps, Vince Williams in his eighth season is continuing to demonstrate that he belongs, and has been as stout as they come against the run.
Everything that we thought we knew about Vince Williams heading into the season, particularly on the positive end of the spectrum, is proving to be continually valid. He is a run stuffer. The stats check out. His six tackles for loss through the first two games of the season, unsurprisingly, rank as the most in the NFL. He already has a sack, which he came by incredibly quickly in the season opener against Daniel Jones.
Williams lost a lot of playing time in 2019 after the Steelers signed Mark Barron in free agency and then drafted Devin Bush. Bush is now the every-down player—he literally has played every defensive snap in the first two games—but with Barron gone, it’s Williams in the driver’s seat again, and he has already played 104 defensive snaps, or 72 percent of their total.
That is right in line with where he was as a starter in 2017-8 before they upgraded at the inside linebacker position, but we will see some ebb and flow here from game to game depending upon how much they use the dime package in any given week with Cameron Sutton, and possibly Sean Davis.
One thing I would also be interested to see is if the Steelers at some point during the year decide to start dressing Ulysees Gilbert III again. A lot of people seemed to think he would eat into Williams’ snaps this year, but to date, they have been dressing Robert Spillane (who has played nine snaps) and Marcus Allen over him.
Williams did allow a touchdown reception to Melvin Gordon on a wheel route on Sunday against the Broncos. Perhaps his coverage could have been a bit better, but the reality is that it was a great throw and catch, reminiscent of Le’Veon Bell in the playoff game against the Jaguars in 2017.