The Pittsburgh Steelers have already been without starting, every-down linebacker Devin Bush for the past 11 games since he suffered a torn ACL in the team’s first meeting against the Cleveland Browns all the way back in the middle of October. They have also had to make do without his replacement, Robert Spillane, for the past four weeks, after suffering an injury of his own.
The second-year player has spent the time since then on the Reserve/Injured List, and though he was eligible to begin practicing last week and return in time to play the Browns in the rematch in the season finale, the team did not begin his clock.
Head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed yesterday during his pre-game press conference that he has a chance to play this week, and one player who is excited to see that is the man who replaced him in the starting lineup, Avery Williamson.
“It definitely helps a whole lot. We’ve been kind of thin at linebacker for a few weeks now. Having him back is gonna be huge”, he during his segment on The Fan yesterday. “He knows the system well. He was playing good ball before he got hurt. It’s gonna be great to have him back. Whatever the rotation is, the mor the merrier. Guys would be able to stay fresh”.
Williamson, a seven-year veteran who has spent most of his career starting, has played 80 percent of the snaps or more for the Steelers the past four weeks. In that time, he has registered 40 tackles, including two for a loss, with a sack and two quarterback hits. He has 52 tackles in total wit the Steelers, and 111 tackles on the season including his time with the New York Jets before he was traded mid-season.
Given that he has established himself in the lineup at this point, it is not a given that they will take any one approach to the position. Tomlin conceded as much yesterday, and pretty much said that it’s a good problem to have.
Even those involved don’t know what is going to happen just yet. “I have no idea”, Williamson said about who will start and if there will be a rotation. “I’ll be on the field. We’ll just see. Whenever I’m on the field, I’m just gonna do everything to make plays and try to help win the game”.
Anybody is going to be a downgrade from Bush, a 2019 10th-overall draft pick with elite speed for his position, but the Steelers could have done much worse this year without Spillane and then adding Williamson to secure the position. Every team deals with injuries. Pittsburgh handled the loss of Bush better than I’m sure anybody imagined they would be able to at the start of the year.