Avery Williamson technically made his debut for the Pittsburgh Steelers this past week, in the sense that he dressed for the game, even though he did not play. That is in spite of the fact that he did not get the opportunity to get on the practice field with the team during the week of practice due to the Covid-19 protocols after he was acquired via trade.
This week, starting inside linebacker Vince Williams is out of practice due to the protocols after being deemed a high-risk close contact of Vance McDonald, who tested positive from a Covid-19 test taken before Sunday’s game.
That has given Williamson plenty of time to get on the field this week and run with the starters, with just himself and Robert Spillane and Marcus Allen the only healthy linebackers in the building at the moment. In the (unlikely) event that Williams can’t go on Sunday, the newcomer would likely be called upon to start, making this week of work even more important.
“I definitely feel like I’ve gotten enough work this week”, he told reporters earlier today. “Nothing’s gonna be perfect, but I’ve just got to prepare for the worst. But I definitely feel like I’ve done a good job so far. Practice is definitely different from a game, but I’m glad I’m soaking information in and actually doing a good job in practice. I’ve just got to keep on working and see what’s gonna happen with Vince. Hopefully he’s gonna be good to play on Sunday”.
Acquired via the New York Jets a bit over a week ago, Williamson is a veteran of seven years, originally coming into the league with the Tennessee Titans, with whom he played for four seasons. He has been in New York for the past three years, though he is also coming off a lost 2019 season in which he was recovering from a torn ACL.
In his seven games played with the Jets this year, he recorded 59 tackles, one interception, and three passes defensed. Heh as 555 tackles for his career, with 26 for loss, recording 14.5 sacks, four interceptions, 17 passes defensed, five forced fumbles, and three recoveries.
The Steelers expressed interest in him in 2018 when he first hit unrestricted free agency, but he was out of their price range, signing a three-year, $22.5 million deal. They ended up instead with Jon Bostic on a two-year, $4 million deal.
That worked out so much to their satisfaction that they signed Mark Barron to a two-year, $12 million deal the following March and then traded up in the first round to get Devin Bush. Barron has since been released, while Bush is on injured reserve with a torn ACL—the injury that prompted them to trade for Williamson in the first place as depth.