The Pittsburgh Steelers will have quite a few big decisions to make in the early portion of their 2021 offseason and most definitely ahead of the start of the new league year on March 17. Several of those decisions the team has forthcoming will revolve around whether or not contracts of certain players need to be terminated prior to the start of the new league year in March. In this short series that will run the next few weeks, we’ll have a look at the Steelers players currently under contract for at least the 2021 season that plausible candidates to be early offseason roster casualties.
First up in this Keep or Cut series is Steelers inside linebacker.
Player: ILB Vince Williams
2021 Total Scheduled Earnings: $4,000,000
2021 Total Scheduled Cap Charge: $7,031,668
2021 Total Potential Pre-Displacement Cap Savings: $4,000,000
2020 Regular Season Snaps Played: 671 Defense; 47 Special Teams
2020 Regular Season Stats: 69 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 4 quarterback hits, 2 fumble recoveries
Reasons To Cut: In addition to the obvious of saving $4 million against the team’s salary cap, which is a big number in the grand scheme of things considering the Steelers offseason outlook in that department, Williams is no longer an every-down inside linebacker for the Steelers and especially not in passing situations. He’s now 31 years of age and while he does play some on special teams, he no longer is a core player, which would help his value immensely. Including the team’s playoff game, Williams, according to Pro Football Focus, allowed 33 receptions on 48 total targets in 2020 for 414 yards and four touchdowns. They also have him down for 15 total missed tackles. His overall play against the run also slipped some in 2020.
Reasons To Keep: While Williams play against the run may have slipped some in 2020, nobody on the Steelers defense can blow up offensive linemen and fullbacks on the move like he can. He’s still extremely physical player and running backs hate to see him coming on inside linebacker blitzes because they know he will blow them up. Williams still plays downhill well enough and especially against the run. Where he gets in trouble is out in space and when asked to chase. Nobody knows the Steelers defense inside and out like Williams. He is a masterful communicator on the defensive side of the football through both words, signals, and actions. Williams is also an alpha personality and has been as such for many years. He’s an extremely great leader both on and off the field and especially in the locker room. His leadership would be missed. If not asked to do too much on defense, Williams can be carved out a role for one last season. Besides, Williams’ real cap savings if cut and post roster displacement would be just $3.34 million at the most.
Dave’s Recommendation: If Williams’ salary amount and the Steelers salary cap situation in 2020 was not an issue, would the veteran inside linebacker be kept one more season? I think so. Williams is still a 300-400 snap player and especially in base defense and against the run. If cut this offseason, and if veteran inside linebacker Avery Williamson isn’t re-signed, the Steelers summer depth chart at that position will likely include Devin Bush, Robert Spillane, Marcus Allen, Ulysees Gilbert III and Tegray Scales. Bush is coming off a serious knee injury, Spillane has a lot of limitations like Williams does and Allen is more of a sub package dimebacker. Gilbert can’t stay healthy and Scales is more of a practice squad player. The Steelers are likely to draft another inside linebacker this offseason and if so, the development of said player will take some time. It would be great to have Williams around still to help mentor any and all young inside linebackers in 2020 and that includes Bush. The best-case scenario and my recommendation is that Williams considers a pay cut down to the minimum or works out an extension with very little or no new money that results in his 2020 cap charge dropping. Him earning $4 million in 2020 isn’t as big of deal as it is the Steelers potentially needing that cap space that comes along with that salary. Williams’ pre-March 17 status will be interesting to watch play out as it could go numerous ways and especially depending on what the league-wide salary cap number comes in at. Williams is one of those muddle-class players that could be affected by the 2021 salary cap number coming in near or at $175 million.