With the news that the Pittsburgh Steelers have placed Vince Williams on the Reserve/Covid-19 List, it is unclear how many inside linebackers the team will even have available to suit up and take the field on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, with Robert Spillane also expected to miss the game due to injury.
The team has Marcus Allen on the roster, but he hasn’t really played a traditional linebacker role before. Ulysees Gilbert III, currently on the Reserve/Injured List, has begun practicing, but that does not mean he will be activated this week. They also have Tegray Scales, who was in training camp last year, and Christian Kuntz, who is also a long snapper, on the practice squad.
Chances are good that at least one of them will be called up to the 53-man roster if Williams has to miss the game, in which case it would be done as a Covid-19 Replacement, rather than an elevation. But the bottom line is that there is a very good chance the Steelers are down to just Avery Williamson as far as experienced linebackers go on Sunday.
Even before it was known that Williams would be going on the reserve list, defensive coordinator Keith Butler was asked about the state of the inside linebacker position with Spillane likely to be out and whether or not they had enough there.
“We’re just going to have to do what we can and play together. The biggest thing is playing together and knowing what each other is doing like I talked about before”, he said, via transcript. “I think we will be okay. Avery hadn’t been with us for training camp and stuff like that, but he’s gotten a pretty good grasp of the defense. He will have an idea of what he should be doing out there”.
He must have a pretty good grasp, because the Steelers had already entrusted him with the task of wearing the green dot on Monday after Spillane left the game with an injury. He will obviously do so on Sunday if Williams misses the game—and possibly even if he doesn’t.
— Steelers Depot 🎄 (@Steelersdepot) December 10, 2020
At the moment, the Steelers are down all four of their top linebackers at the start of the season. Devin Bush is on the Reserve/Injured List with a torn ACL. Williams is now on the Reserve/Covid-19 List. Top backup Spillane is sidelined with a knee injury, and Gilbert is also working his way back from a back injury while on the Reserve/Injured List.
Just left are Allen, a converted safety, and Williamson, a start with the New York Jets they were willing to part with for a fifth-round pick. As mentioned, they also have a couple of players on their practice squad who have been in the Steelers’ system before, at least in the offseason, but the reality is that they may be incredibly thin in terms of experience on Sunday.