While it\’s unlikely to happen in 2013, in 2014 the Pittsburgh Steelers could very well have two Florida State Seminoles manning both inside linebacker spots if sixth-round draft pick Vince Williams progresses at a rapid pace during his rookie season.
So what does Steelers inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons think so far about the product of his alma mater? According to a Friday evening report by Dan Gigler of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, he\’s impressed and can\’t wait to see more of him at Latrobe.
“He looks like a smart player,” said Timmons, who according to Gigler made a trip to Europe during the offseason. “He’s very gifted with his athletic ability and I’m starting to get excited to see what he’s going to do in camp.”
Now, it\’s not like we would hear anything but positive remarks from Timmons about one of his teammates, but him saying that Williams is smart matches the report made by Bob Labriola of steelers.com following the conclusion of the Steelers rookie camp back in early May. Labriola reported then that Williams looked like he was picking things up fast and was even instructing some of the other young players during the practices.
The biggest concern right now about Williams is, whether or not he can drop into coverage and become a three down linebacker at the NFL level. During his time at Florida State, he was mostly a two-down linebacker as he was often replaced by a defensive back on obvious passing downs. Linebackers coach Keith Butler talked about those concerns immediately following the selection of Williams in the draft.
“We’ll see in training camp if he has the ability to cover running backs and stuff like that,” said Butler. “Obviously if he is not going to be a three-down football player in college then he is not going to all of a sudden step to the National Football League and be a three-down player. That is something we have to determine in training camp.”
One thing that Butler said he wasn\’t concerned about with Williams, however, was his ability to hit.
“The thing that attracts us to him is that he will hit you,” said Butler, who indicated Williams will play on special teams initially like all young Steelers linebackers are expected to do. “There are two things you can’t teach linebackers in this league. One of them is how fast are you going to be and the other one is will you hit somebody.”
Despite only starting 26 games while at FSU, Williams recorded 68 solo tackles to go along with 45 assisted tackles over the course of the last two seasons, according to his official stats. In addition, he registered 11.5 tackles for loss during that same time span.
The Steelers re-signed veteran inside linebacker Larry Foote to a three-year contract early in the offseason and the development of Williams as a rookie will go a long way in determining if he sees year two of it. If the coaching staff feels that the former Seminole has a solid grasp of the defense and can cover by this time next year, Timmons\’ 2014 counterpart inside won\’t have to be taught the tomahawk chop.