Vince Williams may not be suiting up in pads anymore, but it’s hard to ever imagine a life he chooses to lead that doesn’t involve football. The former Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker is now on the cusp of a coaching career, which he talked about possibly exploring to higher levels, but it was still a surprise when he announced his retirement just before training camp in 2021.
A sixth-round pick out of Florida State in 2013, Williams didn’t take long in establishing himself as a fan favorite because of the way he played the game, which even then many saw as a throwback to a fading era. But that’s essentially why he chose to retire when he did.
“It really just felt like I was obsolete”, he said yesterday on The Arthur Moats Experience with his former Steelers teammate. Earlier that year, he was actually released as a salary cap casualty and later re-signed for less money. It was clear to him that they were moving forward with Devin Bush and Robert Spillane.
Which he was fine with. “I never wanted to be one of those spiteful vets”, he said. He felt that the Steelers were in good hands overall at inside linebacker, and he didn’t want to stand in the way once it became clear to him that there wasn’t a place for him anymore.
He even told Moats that he was looking to get more active on special teams again, but was essentially told that he was too valuable for that. “’You’re too valuable to be a special teams player, but you’re not valuable enough to play’”, he said. “’You’re not valuable enough to get paid’”.
Although he’s now 32 years old, he talked about the game changing rather than his body changing. And with that came a changed mindset. You have to have a certain mentality to play the game of football under even the best circumstances, let alone the way he played.
“I’m the linebacker formerly known as Vince Williams. I’m not that guy” anymore, he told Moats about how he has transitioned away from the football player he was. “That’s not who I am anymore. I don’t want to. It’s like, ‘Eh, I don’t really want to’. I can’t lie, that’s why I really got into coaching”.
It’s not a loss of a love for the game—even if it’s a game that has changed significantly even since he first came into the league. He understands that the changing of the game has also changed the bodies that are playing it, and that those of his body type are not what teams look for in their linebackers in this era of the player safety initiative.
Could the Steelers have used him out there last season, though? Hell yes. Would he have been the best inside linebacker that they had? Maybe you’ll disagree, but I think so. At least, he would have been if he would have been able to keep his heart in it.