Now that the 2021 offseason has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we are seeing over the course of the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: ILB Vince Williams
Stock Value: Sold
Reasoning: It was announced on Wednesday that Vince Williams would be retiring after eight seasons in the NFL, all with the Steelers.
The Steelers released Vince Williams on March 16, saving a few millions in salary cap space. He opted to re-sign a month later on April 16 to a one-year, veteran minimum contract. On Wednesday, as players were reporting to training camp, it was announced, on July 21, that he would be retiring.
It’s not entirely clear what happened between the middle of April and late July that made him change his mind about giving it one more year. It’s also not entirely clear what exactly this does to the Steelers’ depth chart.
Devin Bush and Robert Spillane were expected to be the starters this season, with Williams as the primary backup. With him now gone, there are opportunities for Ulysees Gilbert III and rookie Buddy Johnson to show that they can step up and play a significant role if necessary.
Personally speaking, I think it is unlikely that the Steelers would meaningfully address the inside linebacker position in conjunction with Williams’ decision to retire. They might bring in another inside linebacker just to keep the positional numbers intact, but I don’t expect it to be a ‘name’ player, even like Avery Williamson.
Especially for a sixth-round pick, though, Williams had a great career. He played more than 120 games over eight years, starting more than half of them. He racked up nearly 500 career tackles, with 20.5 sacks, and two interceptions, one off of Tom Brady. It remains the most baffling stat line that I can think of that he never forced a fumble in his career.
There is a reason that Williams was a fan favorite. Actually, there were many reasons, and his googly-eyes headshot is just one of them. More than anything, he personified the spirit of the game, and the love of the game. He played the way a fan would, if he had the athletic ability to do so.
Here’s to hoping he chooses to stay around the game and goes on to have a successful coaching career—maybe even in Pittsburgh. Perhaps Larry Foote can give him a pointer or two. And as the main image for this post is, perhaps for one last time, that famous headshot.