The Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t historically prone to making in-season acquisitions for players via trade, but it has become a bit of a trend recently. This year, they sent a fifth-round pick to the New York Jets in exchange for inside linebacker Avery Williamson, a veteran starter whom they have brought in to serve as depth after starter Devin Bush went down with a torn ACL.
Depth, at least, for now, because the Steelers are happy with the play that they have been getting from Vince Williams and Robert Spillane, the latter of whom has been primarily responsible for taking over the snaps that Bush is not taking. But defensive coordinator Keith Butler did not slam the door on the idea of that situation changing over time.
“Is he going to start for us? Maybe one day, we will see, but right now, we like the guys that we got”, he told reporters yesterday, via transcript, at least at the end of his response to a question as to whether or not a short week like this would be a game in which Williamson might play more. He said multiple times that they like who they have already.
Will he get some playing time? Sure, he will get some playing time, but right now, we are going to go with the guys we have been playing with”, Butler said. “That doesn’t mean he’s not going to play. It just means we aren’t going to change the lineup to start. As the year goes along, we are probably going to need him. This will be his third week into our system, so he is still learning. We will keep him that way for right now”.
Williamson logged at least 800 defensive snaps in four of his five first seasons in the league between 2014 and 2018. He played 100 percent of the snaps in 2018 in his first season with the Jets, before spending the 2019 season on the Reserve/Injured List with a torn ACL.
He was limited a bit when he first came back this year, but by the time he was traded, he was averaging 85 percent of the snaps and up again. This is a man who has more than 550 tackles in his career to go along with double-digit sacks, and approaching double digits in turnovers as well.
The former fifth-round pick out of Kentucky—yes, he was a college teammate of Bud Dupree’s—is a very experienced, veteran player. Spillane never played a snap on defense before the 2020 season. But he does know the system for two years now, and he has by and large done the job asked of him since he’s been in the lineup. You can’t penalize a guy for that.