It’s not easy to come into a group setting as the new guy and find your place in the new order, even for a seasoned veteran, but linebacker Avery Williamson has said that his new Pittsburgh Steelers teammates have been very welcoming and have embraced him right away, and that that has aide his transition into their system and their culture.
That doesn’t necessarily translate into him getting on the field, as he understands, and the coaches have been pretty forthright in talking about the fact that their interest in acquiring him stemmed from their desire to improve their depth at the position once Devin Bush went down, with Ulysees Gilbert III later also getting sidelined with a back injury.
Vince Williams is a veteran of the defense at the linebacker position, but the coaches have entrusted Robert Spillane to take over Bush’s starting job, and he has only increased his snap count in recent weeks. It remains to be seen whether or not Williamson will begin to chip away at that, but one area in which he may be more likely to contribute is to Danny Smith’s area of focus: special teams.
“I talked to him last week. We’ll see what his plan is”, he told The Fan last week regarding the Steelers’ special teams coordinator, Smith. “He knows what on ‘teams’ I’m comfortable doing. Whatever they want me to do, I’m game for it. I just want to be a factor, and not be a spectator on the sideline. It definitely was kind of weird”.
It’s also weird to go from a virtual full-time defensive starter to a special teamer, but he won’t be the first player to ever go through that experience, truth be told, and he has played 38 snaps on special teams this year with the New York Jets.
He also logged nearly 100 snaps on special teams in 2018, but in his first season in New York. All the way back during his rookie season of 2014 with the Tennessee Titans, he played more than 250 snaps on special teams, though his snap count began to dip after that while his defensive role accelerated and he began to play 900-plus snaps a year.
That’s not what the Steelers need from him, but they will surely find ways for him to contribute, and typically the most immediate way for new athletic players to do that is to find themselves a hat on special teams.
The special teams unit Williamson played most this year with the Jets was on kick returns, but he also saw some time on punt returns and on kick coverage. If we go back to his rookie year, we see a four-phase player with nearly 100 snaps playing punt coverage as well, and 69 snaps on the field goal blocking unit, so he has done just about everything in the past, which gives both him and Smith options.