Vince Williams has had an accomplished NFL career — full stop. Put that in the context of his being a sixth-round draft pick, and he has had a damn fine one. At 31 years old, the Pittsburgh Steelers just assured that he will return for his ninth season in 2021. That may prove to be his last, and possibly even by choice.
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, who reported the news of his being re-signed, wrote in an article about the move that Williams intends to evaluate his playing career after this season, and is interested in exploring the possibility of getting into the coaching side of football.
It is, of course, not even remotely surprising for a player to express interest in coaching. I would wager that the majority of coaches have played the sport they coached, perhaps even at the professional level.
Take the Steelers’ own coaching staff, for example. While Mike Tomlin only played at the college level, defensive coordinator Keith Butler was an accomplished linebacker. The coaching staff also features Ike Hilliard, Adrian Klemm, and Jerry Olsavsky, all of whom played in the NFL for multiple years with success.
He would be far from the only former Steelers player to pursue a coaching career, or at least consider it. Larry Foote just won a Super Bowl as linebackers coach under Bruce Arians for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. So did Byron Leftwich as offensive coordinator, and Antwaan Randle El as receivers coach. Ike Taylor has considered a coaching career. Carnell Lake and Joey Porter were formerly on the team’s staff.
I can certainly see Williams becoming a quality coach in the NFL. He has always had a head for the game as a signal-calling buck linebacker, having held responsibilities for wearing the green dot as early as his rookie season.
I have no doubt that he has already done his fair share of player-to-player coaching as well. And he will probably do a good deal of that this year with Devin Bush and Robert Spillane playing around him, not to mention Ulysees Gilbert III, Marcus Allen, Tegray Scales, and likely a rookie draft pick as well.
Where would his coaching career begin, though, and how soon? There are cases—Foote is one—where players go right into coaching out of retirement. Would Tomlin give him a shot right out of the chute in some type of coaching assistant capacity? This is all, of course, assuming that he does opt to retire after the 2021 season.