Once you’re on an NFL roster, it doesn’t matter how you got there. The Pittsburgh Steelers have Pro Bowlers who were taken in the top 10 picks in the draft, and Pro Bowlers who not only went undrafted, but unsigned—for years.
There are many, many reasons that a player may not be drafted high in spite of the fact that he is later able to prove that he has ample ability to play and start at this level of the game. Sometimes these players develop that ability over time, but sometimes evaluators just miss.
For Vince Williams, a sixth-round pick out of Florida State in 2013, it really doesn’t matter how or why he ended up being drafted so low. The fact of the matter is that he is a core starter of one of the best defenses in the NFL—and they have missed him the past two weeks.
“He’s our Mike. He’s been doing it for a while. He’s one of our defensive stalwarts that we can rely on”, defensive captain Cameron Heyward told reporters earlier today. “It was a little bit of an adjustment having him gone. Obviously, you want to plug guys in and be able to not miss a beat, but for Vince, he doesn’t miss a lot of games. He’s a guy you can count on”.
Williams tested positive for Covid-19, and it took him some time to recover, spending nearly two weeks on the Reserve/Covid-19 List after battling symptoms that he mentioned dealing with on social media. He missed two games during that time, which, coupled with other injuries at the position, posed a major problem.
Avery Williams became their primary linebacker with both Devin Bush and Robert Spillane—the latter with a short-term injury—on the Reserve/Injured List. With nobody else available, converted safety Marcus Allen was called into action, with Ulysees Gilbert III, fresh off the Reserve/Injured List himself, asked to provide some relief. Practice squad member Tegray Scales has been called up the past two weeks.
“The younger guys are still coming along”, Heyward admitted. “Having him back only benefits the group in terms of a mentality or intellectual where they’re able to talk about things. But when he’s on the field, his physicality, the way he’s able to blitz, he really gives us an extra edge”.
On the season, over 12 games, Williams has registered 63 tackles, including 14 for loss, which is a career high, and for a while, was the most in the NFL. He also has three sacks on the year and has two fumble recoveries.