Trading in August and September has become something of a norm for the Pittsburgh Steelers in order to put the finishing touches on their roster, either as they head into the regular season or to provide a last-minute boost when injuries arise. The 2020 season proved to be no exception with the late addition of inside linebacker Avery Williamson.
Just last year, of course, they made two in-season trades, first for Minkah Fitzpatrick, the big move. But they also later added tight end Nick Vannett in order to supplement the position after Xavier Grimble suffered an injury.
In previous years, we have seen August trades to bring in the likes of Vance McDonald, Ryan Switzer, J.J. Wilcox, Justin Gilbert, and Brandon Boykin, with others that could be named as well if you really want to get into further detail, but the point is pretty clear in establishing a trend.
Following the news of the latest trade, head coach Mike Tomlin was asked yesterday during his pre-game press conference about the team’s trend over the second half of his tenure to make use of training camp and early regular-season trades to bolster the roster.
“We will utilize all the tools at our disposal to fortify our depths and present the strongest football team”, he said. “Sometimes different journeys create different challenges, and we are just responding to what we believe is appropriate to the challenges that this journey is providing us”.
Of course, the role that Williamson will play for the Steelers in the long term remains to be seen. For the time being, he will serve as little more than depth behind Vince Williams and Robert Spillane, and even their roles in a post-Devin Bush defense are still being sussed out relative to sub-package alternatives.
The lack of full health at all three levels of the defense complicates answers. Along the front, Tyson Alualu is expected to miss time, and Cameron Heyward could miss a game or two as well. Even conceding Bush as old news, Ulysees Gilbert III is recovering from injury. And in the secondary, of course, you have Mike Hilton working his way back (not to mention Jordan Dangerfield).
Until we get all the pieces of the puzzle back in the box, and ready to be laid out on the table, it will be difficult to see the full picture and where Williamson might fit in. Of course, he will have the opportunity to try to demonstrate for himself what his role ought to be, which in theory could rise to the level of full-time starter, but he won’t be handed anything.
The trade, however, gives them both depth and options, and when you’re a title contender, you want to have as much of both as you can manage.