Every team has those players on their roster who personify the heart and soul of their unit. He or she might not be the only one about whom that can be said, but they certainly stand on their own in that regard. Former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Vince Williams was one of them.
Though the team released him back in March to save salary cap space, they brought him back on a team-friendly deal. The defense was already moving ahead with Robert Spillane in the starting lineup, but having Williams still in the fold was still important to them. He surprised the coaches and his teammates when he revealed just before the start of training camp that he decided to retire.
Naturally, he’s been a topic of conversation in the past couple of weeks, especially among the linebackers, and Spillane in particular, who spent a lot of time on the field playing together last season. Now, Spillane is taking over his role on the field, and he reflected on what Williams was to him as a teammate.
“Vince meant the world to me. He was like, one of those old guys that took a young guy under his wing”, he told reporters yesterday. “He saw something special in me when I first got here, and he was a leader to me, and that’s showing the way. He didn’t necessarily speak as much as some other people, but he showed the way through his actions and what he did on the field”.
Over the course of his eight seasons in Pittsburgh, Williams started 69 of 121 games played. He finished his career with 479 career tackles, including 50 for loss, with 20.5 sacks, two interceptions, and somehow, some way, no (credited) forced fumbles.
Starting 14 out of 14 games played last season, Williams registered 70 tackles with a career-high 14 for loss, along with three sacks. He missed two games toward the end of the season while spending time on the Reserve/COVID-19 List, having tested positive. He played 100 percent of the snaps in his first game back.
Spillane will be taking over Williams’ buck linebacker spot, but has actually hardly played there. The 2020 season marked his first meaningful playing experience on defense, and his opportunity to get on the field was granted by Devin Bush’s injury. He started seven games, alongside Williams, at the mack position.
A former college free agent out of Western Michigan, Spillane totaled 45 tackles during his seven starts in addition to a pair of sacks. He also had an interception against the Baltimore Ravens’ Lamar Jackson that he returned for a touchdown. He missed the final four games of the regular season due to a knee injury.