Tomlin Envisions Avery Williamson As Third Inside Linebacker, Insurance Against Spillane/Williams Injury

Avery Williamson is an ex-New York Jet wearing #51. That may remind you of James Farrior don’t expect the second coming of Potise to walk through the doors. Mike Tomlin outlined how he envisions Williamson’s role with the Steelers. 

“From a long-term standpoint, we have a vision of him being a third inside linebacker,” Tomlin said at his Tuesday press conference. “A guy that’s position flexible. A guy that’s capable of supporting Robert or Vince if anything should happen to either.”

Based off that statement, Williamson is a quality depth piece. Not someone expected to have a large role on the defense, in base or in sub-packages, even after he gets in the building and picks up the offense.

Tomlin said they were comfortable with bringing Williamson in on the fly because of his football IQ, their years-long relationship, and his experience in systems similar to what Pittsburgh runs.

“I met Avery at Bud Dupree’s pro day after his rookie year. There was a lot of downtime after his rookie year. There was a lot of downtime during that day and we gravitated towards one another. His passion for football comes through in general conversation. He’s a football lover. He’s a football junkie…at the early stages of his career, he played down in Tennessee and played in a system that was very similar to ours. Not only in terms of how it’s constructed but the language itself.”

During Williamson’s rookie year in 2014, his DC with the Titans was Ray Horton. Horton served as the DBs coach in Pittsburgh from 2004-2010. From the rest of his Titans’ career, 2015 to 2017, he was coached by Dick LeBeau, the Steelers former’ DC and one of the godfathers of the zone blitz. The Steelers have strayed away from many of LeBeau’s principles but many of their pressure packages and LB responsibilities remain the same.

For Sunday’s matchup against Dallas, Williamson’s role is unclear. Tomlin said he won’t be allowed in the building until Saturday, assuming he passes all his COVID tests. Given the team’s injuries at ILB, losing Devin Bush for the season and Ulysees Gilbert III’s back injury, it’s still possible Williamson dresses but he’s unlikely to play many snaps, if any, even on special teams.

Based on what Tomlin said today, even once Williamson gets up to speed, his role is quality, sturdy depth. Not as a starting inside linebacker for the Steelers. A large step back from his every-down role with the Jets but now that he’s going to a team that’s not only won a game, but is one of the AFC’s top teams, it’s a tradeoff he’s likely to accept.

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