Although it wouldn’t quite be accurate to say that he was thrown into the fire—he didn’t even play in his first game with the team, and he mostly got garbage time snaps for weeks—Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Avery Williamson has nevertheless had the unenviable task of transitioning into a starting role midseason for a new team, which can’t be easy, even for a veteran.
“It definitely was a lot at times”, he admitted in speaking to reporters on Monday. “I didn’t expect that to happen like that. I’ve been a starter before, my whole career, but it’s different when you’re on a new team and you haven’t been able to work with guys from camp, OTAs, so it definitely was different”.
Not everybody will handle that transition as well as Minkah Fitzpatrick did last year, for example, who ended up having a first-team All-Pro season for the Steelers after being acquired heading into the third week of the season and immediately entering the starting lineup at safety, recording an interception and forcing a fumble in his first game.
It goes without saying that that would be an unrealistic standard to hold anybody to, but he has been statistically productive since arriving. Across about 250 defensive snaps over seven games, he has racked up 44 tackle already, including three for a loss. He also has a sack and a couple of hits on the quarterback.
“I feel like I handled it as well as I could”, he allowed. “I feel like the coaches, they didn’t want to overload me mentally the last few weeks, but I’m definitely glad Vince is back. That definitely helps a whole lot, just the communication factor. He knows the system really well”.
The hope is that the Steelers will be able to get Robert Spillane back sooner rather than later, and then once that happens, it will have to be determined how the playing time situation will be sorted out. Spillane, who suffered a knee injury against the Washington Football Team, has missed the past three games on the Reserve/Injured List, but he is eligible to begin practicing and to come off of reserve this week.
Williamson has logged 173 snaps over the course of the past three games. While he was acquired in order to serve as depth following a series of injuries suffered by the Steelers at the position, they also brought him in knowing that he has a history of being a full-time starter over the course of his career.