After missing two games while grappling with the effects of Covid-19 on his system, veteran inside linebacker Vince Williams returned to the field for the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday and played every snap, as well as a key role in their comeback and victory over the Indianapolis Colts, according to head coach Mike Tomlin.
In what is something that he had done just twice before in his career, Williams logged 100 percent of the defensive snaps, and he did so while wearing the communicator’s helmet, something that had previously been worn by Devin Bush, Robert Spillane, and then Avery Williamson this season. There was a reason for that: a chess match with Colts quarterback Philip Rivers.
“Defensively, I thought as the game wore on, we got more comfortable with the communication necessary to compete against Philip Rivers in that environment”, Tomlin said earlier in his pre-game press conference. “I’m being really specific there because competing against Philip Rivers has its challenges but particularly in a pandemic environment in quiet stadiums when he gets an opportunity to communicate”.
“The intellectual aspect of the schematics was really challenging. It was great to have Vince Williams back in the lineup. Vince played every snap in the game to match Philip in that regard”, he went on to say. “Although Vince might not be ideal for all passing circumstances, his experience in our system, his communication skills, we thought were significant and important – vitally important—to combat Philip’s ability in those areas”.
As Williamson told reporters earlier this week, Williams was feeling the effects of playing every snap shortly after battling Covid-19, noting that he would at times wear an oxygen mask on the sideline when they weren’t in the game, but the veteran pushed through and persevered for his team, even in the midst of the Colts’ drives of double-digit plays.
Williams has registered 68 tackles with 14 for loss on the season so far, along with three sacks and two fumble recoveries. He has played a total of 643 defensive snaps, and should finish around 700 for the season, not far from where he would normally be, despite missing two games due to illness.
The veteran, who turned 31 on Sunday, remains under contract with the team through the 2021 season, and has been one of the stabilizing presences for a defensive unit that has undergone significant changes over the past few years, now in his eighth season with the team, starting 68 of 120 games played, and nearing 500 career tackles.