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: In his first game of the year without Devin Bush, Vince Williams stepped up in a big way, leading the team with 10 tackles, two tackles for loss, and a timely sack against Ryan Tannehill, a quarterback who doesn’t get sacked a lot.
It might have been more fitting to start the conversation of the week with Robert Spillane, making his first career start on the day and at least upon an initial pass having played well, but I think an argument can be made that Vince Williams, the veteran, was the best defensive player on the field, maybe on both sides of the ball, yesterday afternoon.
Of his 10 tackles, nine were against the run, and six were defensive stops, most of them against Derrick Henry. He also tackled Henry for a loss on a screen pass on top of that. In fact, a whole lot of his action during the day came against Henry, who had arguably his worst game since some time early last season.
Of course it wasn’t just Williams versus Henry, but the Steelers’ big run-stuffing inside linebacker—Mike Tomlin even goads him by calling him a two-down player—was certainly key in containing the NFL’s leading rusher for most of the day.
Even the one touchdown that he did get came only after he was stuffed on third and goal from the one, and then Joe Haden was flagged for a potentially unnecessary holding call on fourth down. Had they simply kicked a field goal or Haden not held on that play, there wouldn’t have been a Henry run to bring the Titans to within three points.
Needless to say, with Devin Bush sidelined for the rest of 2020, Williams’ value to this defense rises dramatically. He’s the only thing approaching a veteran at the inside linebacker position, but he is also producing a fair bit. He already has 12 tackles for loss on the year, the most in the NFL, now with three sacks—drawing back even with Mike Hilton, the two of whom have a competition to see who can get in the backfield more.