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Keith Butler on New ILB Avery Williamson: ‘We Hope We Don’t Have To Play Him This Weekend’

Due to league COVID-19 protocols, new Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Avery Williamson isn’t likely to be around most of his new teammates for the first time until he flies with them to Dallas on Saturday. Even so, the Steelers are hoping to have Williamson up-to-speed enough on the defense should they ultimately need him to play on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys.

Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler held his weekly Zoom session with the media on Thursday and during it he described how Avery will fit into the defensive depth chart initially despite not being able to practice yet with the team due to COVID-19 protocols.

“He’s going to add a lot of depth to us when he comes in,” Butler said of Williamson, who the Steelers acquired Sunday night via a trade with the New York Jets. “How much we use him will depend on number one, how fast he can learn in terms of our terminology, which I think won’t be hard for him because he’s had two other coaches that I worked with before that use the same type of terminology and stuff like that. And talking with him, he understands a lot of that. When he gets in, we will have a good idea of where he fits in.”

Butler went on to describe what the team’s plans are with Williamson the remainder of this week and how it’s likely the inside linebacker will at least dress against the Cowboys on Sunday in Dallas.

“Right now, we hope to get him in this weekend, and we hope we don’t have to play him this weekend,” Butler said of Williamson. “But you never know. If you get injuries, you have to put people in, then that could happen. If we did, we would put him in with a very limited amount of defenses that we tried to put on him. Right now, we just hope to get him in this weekend and get him started and get him used to and acclimated to the people around him because it matters who you play with and you know those guys. It’s going to take him a little while I think.”

So, while Williamson isn’t likely to play on Sunday barring injuries, is there a chance he starts seeing the field more and more as the season progresses.

“I think we’ve got two pretty good linebackers inside,” Butler said.

Those two inside linebackers that Butler is referring to are obviously Vince Williams and Robert Spillane, who took over for starter Devin Bush after he was lost for the remainder of the season in Week 6.

Currently, the Steelers have Williamson on a roster exemption and that means he’s technically a 54th man on the roster right now. That exemption will likely come to an end on Friday or Saturday and that will mean he’ll need to become a member of the 53-man roster, which means a reciprocal move will need to be made to accommodate him.

Assuming all goes as planned, Williamson shouldn’t wind up being one of the team’s inactive players on Sunday against the Cowboys. He’ll dress for the game and might not do much more than that as long the other two starting linebackers, Williams and Spillane, both stay healthy.

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