Barring a major surprise between now and Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers will have inside linebacker Vince Williams back on the field for their Week 16 game against the Indianapolis Colts. As you can probably imagine, the expected of return of Williams on Sunday to the defense has a lot of people excited and defensive coordinator Keith Butler is one of them.
“A voice, definitely,” Butler said Thursday when asked what it will mean for his defense to have Williams back on the field Sunday against the Colts. “Communication is going to help us. The guys who have been in there have done a pretty good job of communicating, but Vince [Williams] is a little more confident in what he’s doing. The people around him are a little more confident in terms of what we are doing with him in there and stuff like that. It’s going to help us for sure.”
Butler obviously isn’t the only member of the Steelers looking forward to the return off Williams on Sunday as outside linebacker T.J. Watt and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick both confirmed on Thursday that they fall into that category.
“Yeah, I think Vince just kind of beams confidence and he loves football,” Watt said Thursday about Williams. “He absolutely loves this game and enjoys being around all these guys in this locker room and we love being in his company as well. So, to have a guy in that leadership role back in the inside of our defense being able to make calls and be very assertive with his calls and be very confident in what he’s doing, it’s been awesome to have him back this week and excited to play alongside him again.”
Fitzpatrick’s Thursday response to a question about what it means for the defense to get Williams back on Sunday was similar to that of Butler’s and Watt’s.
“It means we have a leader out there in the linebacker core that’s been doing it for a while,” Fitzpatrick said. “Avery [Williamson] and Chico [Marcus Allen], they did a great job while they were out there, but Vince has been running this defense for a long time and it’s good to have him back. He’s communicating well. Things are just a little bit more fluent when you have a guy that’s been back there doing it for a while.’
With Williams sidelined the last two games on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, linebackers Avery Williamson and Marcus Allen both played extensively with the former being the great dot wearer and thus the quarterback of the defense. While Williamson might once again be asked to wear the green dot on Sunday against the Colts, Williams will help him tremendously in the communication department whenever he’s on the field. Williams probably knows the defense and calls better than any other player on the team and that includes defensive captain Cameron Heyward.
The last time that Williams played in a game was in Week 13 against the Washington Football Team. In that game, the Steelers defense allowed all of 45 yards rushing. In the two games since that Williams missed against the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals, the Steelers defense gave up 256 yards on the ground. The team the Steelers will play on Sunday, the Colts, have an offense that averages 114 rushing yards a game on the season and 149 per game in their last three contests.
To sum things up, the Steelers defense should get a real shot in the arm on Sunday against the Colts with Williams back on the field again. Heyward probably best summed up on Wednesday what Williams’ return to the field in Week 16 means to the defense.
“He’s been doing it for a while,” Heyward said of Williams. “He’s one of our defensive stalwarts that we can rely on, so it was a little bit of 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 and the younger guys are still coming along. So, having him back only benefits the group in terms of a mentality or intellectuals 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.”