The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Getting Vince Williams back will make a big difference to the defense.
Explanation: The Steelers have weathered a number of injuries at the linebacker position this year, particularly at inside linebacker. Vince Williams, the most veteran member of the entire group, has missed the past two games—both losses—after testing positive for Covid-19.
Considering the fact that the run defense has been a problem, getting the most physical and sure tackler on the team will certainly make a difference. In the absence of Bud Dupree, it is also important to get another core member of the blitz team back on the field.
Most important, however, is just the fact that they need options. Avery Williamson and Marcus Allen is not the linebacking core in the middle that is going to win you a lot of games. They need Robert Spillane back, and they need Williams back.
Williams is also a crucial part of the team’s communication structure, and that can be fairly criticized in recent weeks as well with Williamson working the green dot. Given the questions of physicality and the effectiveness with which teams have run the ball up the middle lately, it seems an obvious statement to say that his return will make a big difference.
The Steelers have struggled against the run in games in which Williams has played as well, and there isn’t anything fundamentally true that would have been different in the last game if he was out there, particularly the quarterback designed runs. They’re still making plays, getting tackles for loss, but they’re allowing plays as well.
And he won’t make much of a difference to the pass defense. He’s obviously not as athletic as Marcus Allen, for example, and was already taken off the field in a lot of passing situations anyway. Sure, it’s definitely better to have him than no, but is he going to win them games that they wouldn’t have without him? No.