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Steelers 2013 Training Camp Battles: Stevenson Sylvester Versus Marshall McFadden Versus Vince Williams


The start of the 2013 Pittsburgh Steelers training camp is now almost just a week away so we will continue to look at the training camp battles that will take place with a look at the battle for a few backup inside linebacker spots on the 53 man roster. You can comment on this battle below and make sure to vote in the attached poll.

Training Camp Battle Setup: The Steelers are expecting Sean Spence to start the season on the PUP list and veteran Brandon Johnson was not re-signed during the offseason. Like last season, the Steelers head into training camp with more questions than they have answers as it relates to who will back up starters Lawrence Timmons and Larry Foote. The three players who are most likely to make the roster as the backup inside linebackers are Stevenson Sylvester, Marshall McFadden and Vince Williams.

Stevenson Sylvester - Sylvester\'s biggest problem over the course of his first three seasons in the league is the fact that he can\'t seem to keep himself on the field because of injuries. Last season it was a knee injury during training camp that kept him sidelined for a few games at the start of the season and later in the year it was a hamstring problem that prevented him from dressing. Linebackers coach Keith Butler made it clear during the 2013 NFL Draft that this is a make-or-break training camp coming up for the former fifth-round draft pick.

According to reports, Sylvester has worked at both the inside and outside positions during the offseason and that is not really a surprise being as he played both spots during the one preseason game that he was able to suit up for last season prior to injuring his knee. Sylvester still has yet to crack 100 snaps of playing time on defense; however, and his play on special teams last year included him being penalized three times for holding. Sylvester is really not an outside linebacker, so it will be interesting to see just how many snaps he receives on the left side during the preseason with all the other bodies currently on the roster.

As far as his inside play goes, Sylvester still seems to be more of a run and hit linebacker (MACK) than he is one that can stack a shed a blocker. It will be worth watching during the preseason where he lines up inside to see what the coaching staff thinks he really is. The BUCK and MACK positions have blurred in the Steelers defense over the years, so Sylvester needs to show he can handle whatever spot he is asked to play in addition to being a solid contributor on special teams. More importantly, perhaps, is the fact that he needs to stay healthy throughout the preseason.

Marshall McFadden - McFadden really caught my attention late in the preseason games last year, and he would up leading the team in tackles in addition. His solid play and understanding of the defense resulted in him being a mainstay on the Steelers practice squad last year, and now he must take the next step this year as a second-team player.

McFadden reportedly can play both spots inside and can call the defense as well, so he figures to get even more playing time this year during the preseason against a little better competition. Can he cover? We shall see, but indications from last year were that he can.

Like all the other young linebackers on the roster, McFadden must make an impact on special teams during the preseason, and he really needs to show that he has even more upside if he is going to make the final 53 man roster.

Vince Williams - Williams, who was drafted by the Steelers in the sixth-round this past April out of Florida State, is a heavy hitter and that alone should help him contribute on special teams. The biggest thing that the coaching staff wants to see out of him during training camp is if he can cover inside as they already know he can take on blockers and hit.

Williams was just a two-down linebacker during his college career, and that is a moniker that he will be looking forward to dropping in training camp. In addition to that, he is mostly considered just a straight-line player, so he will have to show that he has improved his change of direction and lateral ability some. He doesn\'t have a quick see-to-do and that is another facet of his game that must improve over time, if at all possible.

Look for Williams to get reps with the third team early in the preseason and perhaps some looks with the second team as well if he develops rapidly.

Prediction: It\'s not outlandish to think that all three of these players could make the 53 man roster out of training camp, but it is important to remember that the team only kept four inside linebackers the last two seasons heading into the first week of the season. Both McFadden and Williams are eligible for the practice squad, but I have a feeling that the rookie is pretty much a lock to make the roster. We have a pretty good reason to believe that the Steelers will carry at least nine linebackers in total so that could leave one of these three out should that be the case. If Sylvester can remain healthy and show position flexibility, I think the Steelers will keep all three of these players.


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About Dave Bryan

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • Matt Searls

    I’m looking forward to seeing what Vince Williams can do, especially on 3rd downs. I’m hesitant to get to high on him though, his college tape wasn’t overly impressive. But I’m pulling for him to be a steal

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Like Dave I too had my eyes open to McFadden and hope he continues to develop. I was high on Sly but he has made no progress.

  • Christopher Wilkes

    I think all 3 make the roster too, and we carry 5 MLBs into the season, but I also think that cuts the OLBs down to 4. The only way that works is if Sylvester can play inside and outside, we cut Chris Carter, which leaves Jones and Robinson as the top backups there.

  • Milliken Steeler

    Sylvester is done. The other linebackers will make the squad but I think Sylvester missed his window.

  • charles

    Cut Woodley, and keep all three. Williams looks too slow for single coverage but he could be hidden in zone Ds

  • Matt Searls

    cut our starting pro bowl outside linebacker for 3 unproven inside linebackers? put all 3 of their stats together and you get 0 sacks, 0 forced fumbles, 0 ints, and 3 tackles. Sly has all 3 of those tackles. dude why are you on here?

  • sgtrobo

    i loved his college tape. Aggressive as heck. Only question is 3rd downs, like you said. Guys a high-speed thumper, that’s a rare combo

  • steeltown

    Ive been thinking that exact thing.. I don’t think it will happen though unless Sly really shows he is capable of playing outside, to which I have my doubts

  • steeltown

    Im pulling for M.McFadden and Williams.. I truly think Williams will be a good BUCK ILB in the near future.. and McFadden has shown to be able to play both positions AND he’s solid on special teams

  • steeltown

    The thing to remember is it was schematics that forced him to watch from the sideline on 3rd downs in college.. they usually played a fifth DB on (3rd down) passing plays at FSU, so by default he wasn’t given many snaps in coverage. I hope training with Shaw will help with his quickness regarding coverage

  • Luke Shabro

    I think I’d be ok with that. Truth be told I’m not high on Sylvester or Chris Carter. Carter seems to be injured a lot and Sly never seemed to develop like I thought he would. I think if you keep Slyvester or Carter and cut the other no one is going to sign them. You can pick them up off the street later if you get hit with injuries.

  • Luke Shabro

    I love both those guys! I know we didn’t get a blue chip player at ILB (I would’ve loved to have had Arthur Brown or even John Simon) but I believe McFadden might be able to supplant Larry Foote next year or by the end of this season. Maybe that’s just optimistic thinking.

  • steeltown

    Im thinking V.Williams will be Footes replacement by 2014 or 2015..he’s more of a BUCK ILB and McFadden could be the guy to backup both sides, as needed

  • Luke Shabro

    I’d be ok with that too. I still lament about Sean Spence all the time. I feel like he could’ve been great but it kind of feels like even if he comes back (which we all hope and pray for just because you want to root for the kid) that he might never be the same

  • steeltown

    Agreed, its hard to believe he’ll ever be the same athlete

  • SteelSpine

    The cool thing is, the total of the 3 says we are better at backup ILB than last year. That’s because McFadden is more experienced than last year, Sly so-far is healthy & learned LeBeau’s system, & VinceW is better built for pro LB in a 3-4 than Spence was.

  • Matt Searls

    so what are we going to do if williams and spence both turn out how we want them to? i know thats a big if but i guess that would be a battle to watch in camp next year

  • steeltown

    Oh no..Vince is more BUCK and Spence is more of a MACK (although Spence is a hybrid type)

  • Steeler Wheeler

    Why not? among the reserves 2 OL, 2 IL and one flex, even if he’s not real good at OL. Cutting a guy like Carter will result in him being signed by…no one, and if needed due to injury, resign him…at about $30,000 a game I’m sure he won’t be too displeased.

  • Matt Searls

    i dont think they would switch timmons to the buck spot though. so why draft spence as a mack? i agree he is way undersized to be a buck but unless he or someone else changes positions he couldnt be a starter. i also feel like we might have our expectations too high for a 7th round ilb

  • Steeler Wheeler

    Why do we love the UDFA so? I’m huge on McFadden I don’t remember where he played in college and didn’t see or don’t remember the pre-season games where he shined…but I’d be perfectly happy to see him starting for Foote? Crazy…Part of it has to be we know the average starter’s (like Foote) deficiencies, and we know guys like Worilds, Carter and Sylvester haven’t impressed us at all, may as well root for the underdog!

    I’m also pulling for Williams, but, I gotta believe his chances to make the 53 are slim and his chances to dress on Sundays are near zero percent.

  • steeltown

    Yea most questioned the draft pick immediately because we already had Timmons but no they aren’t moving Timmons anywhere, Spence is to small to play pure BUCK LB and take on and shed blocks, they drafted Spence as a hybrid guy, they were going to create certain schemes for him to match up against the Ray Rice type players. As Butler said when they drafted him “cover him up” hybrid type player, not a BUCK a MACK in certain schemes.

  • SteelSpine

    I agree. VWilliams best position here is to eventually be the left ILB (the buck): the thumper & call alignments. It looks right outta the textbook to me.

  • SteelSpine

    Yep love UDFAs because of underdog aspect, Adrian Robinson is another example that it’s fun to root for them. Ramon Foster as UDFA filled in at freggin OTackle in regular season his rookie year. Donnie Shell was an UDFA & that’s when we had many more rounds in the draft. So many other examples.

  • JohnnyV1

    What about Brian Rolle, former Buckeye? He played a year for the Eagles, and started, I think at outside linebacker in their 4-3. Not saying he could be another Potsy, who played OLB in the 4-3 for the Jets before becoming all All-Pro ILB in our 3-4, but haven’t heard much about him in these conversations. Has he no chance?

  • Matt Searls

    When they were looking for a new writer I was honestly hoping that you would do it haha. Your comments and facts are always spot on. And you add things that help. Glad u a steelers fan man

  • charles

    What has your 60 million dollar man produced the last two years?!? He got lotto lucky playing opposite Harrison.everyone knew Harrison was a game changer and noone was that worried about Mr Woodley. Lamar bought a professional bowling team and I hope he becomes a pro bowler again.

  • Matt Searls

    Past 2 years? 13 sacks, 78 tackles and 2 ints. In 2011 when Harrison was out woodley stepped up and had 7.5 sacks in 4 weeks. In the game against the cardinals, also without Harrison, woodley had 2 sacks and a safety. woodley was on pace for around 15 sacks that year before he was injured. You need to check your facts man.

  • Stephen Dale

    don’t care which starts or comes off the bench ; just need somebody / anybody to be a productive player around whom the Steelers can build a LB core for the future. whether any of those mentioned are truly NFL caliber is really the question.

  • charles

    Acknowledged. Woodley still came to camp out of shape, and, I am not a doctor, but IMO his injuries are related. Further, like all stats these numbers need to be taken in context…did he get those sacks against the Cardinals a very weak team, or late in the fourth quarter in a clean up role or did he get them against the Cravens when it mattered? I have seen every Steeler game since 1994, not one drop of beer, and truthfully, Matt I don’t recall him making any impact of note these last couple of years. Ziggy had 42 tackles last year and one could could argue that his production was greater. Is he worth 65 mil then?
    Additionally Timmons had three interceptions last year and two of them were game changers. Would you say that Woodley has ever made a game changing play? Ever?

  • Matt Searls

    They have all been given in context. First u say he only was productive with Harrison. And then it’s he was doing clean up win the 4th against bad teams. When actually they weren’t. U remember him destroying the patriots before that injury? Dude you just are wrong. 1 game changing play? How about the last play of our Super Bowl win against the cards. (Who are such a bad team) his strip sack sealed the game and Tomlin told him ” it wouldn’t of been anyone but you” ive got plenty more off the top of my head. he’s a game changer and your idea of cutting him for 3 ilbs doesnt make any sense. he had a bad year coming off of injury, so has basically every player on our team. watch him this year and judge, a full season with no harrison and hes perfectly healthy going into camp.

  • charles

    Woodley is a Steeler so I hope he does well. I am pulling for Robinson to displace him. I also made no claim that Woodleys stats came from a weak team. I do know that the stats that you cited were from the last two years and the Cardinals are and were weak those two years. As for the Super Bowl you have to admit that Kurt Warner had driven within a hail mary and 38 seconds of winning the game and you and everybody else breathed a sigh of relief when he went down on that last play. From what I recall he was watchingwhere Harrison was on that play and did not see Woodley. Finally one could argue that the Cardinals should have never gotten that far in the first place.
    On a last note Matt notice how I make NO DEROGATORY REMARKS ABOUT YOU. If you have no class find some.

  • Matt Searls

    You were doing well until the last part. Notice how I don’t insult you but if you have no friends then get some. Robinson will not overtake woodley, also Robinson was not even in this article. I just found it funny that u want praise for not insulting and then u do it. There’s a reason 5 people voted down your statement and why no one agreed with it. You say u want him to succeed and then u say to cut him. U say he was only good because of Harrison and then u blame his success without Harrison on bad teams without knowing who they were. You say he’s not a game changer and then disregard when he is. U say youre not a doctor but u try and give medical facts. Sorry man but just think your statements through. I’m glad u haven’t missed a steelers game in so long and good for u for not drinking beer, im not sure what that has to do with this though. but post things that make sense.

  • charles

    I won’t lose any sleep over whether you or anyone else agrees with me . To be perfectly honest I don’t think that you have closely read what I have replied to you since your answers seem to conflate more than one comment or fact just as this latest reply has. The first comment of this dialogue was clear though and you had no problem with getting it. I would love to see Robinson LOLB McFadden Timmons and Worilds as our LB corp with Jones playing Aldon Smith of the 49ers in nickel or dime or some other taylor made defense that LeBeau has dreamed up.
    All those who are on the Woodley bandwagon might go revisit their comments on Colon and his injuries.
    This next statement really should get you all wound up. Sometimes I wish LeBeau would coach to his players talents as opposed to shoving his three year defensive college down their throats. We have to get more production out of our draft class ie year 1-4 and defensive line seems to be the perfect opportunity. It also seems to have a shred of truth that if you make a player think too much you can impede his athletic talent and instinct. See Harrison Super Bowl 2008 or Polamolu jumping the line of scrimmage.
    Finally there will be those who say our defense has been number one the last couple of years. I would reply thank god for Carnell Lake. If those who put LeBeau on a pedestal can say that they have had confidence that our defense can come up with critical stops late in the game these last couple of years, then I would wonder what planet they were on. See Tennesee, Denver or Oakland.
    Given that I still would not trade DCs with any other team, but hope Lake is next in line and we don’t lose him to free agency.
    How is that for clear and original thinking?….

  • Matt Searls

    arguing with you just seems pointless. you get on me for arguing about multiple subjects and then your reply has at least 5. if you dont care what anyone else thinks then why are you posting your comments on a fan site? there has to be something to it if everyone disagrees with you. harrisons interception was entirely part of that play, he was supposed to fake like he was rushing and then drop off into coverage. so you compliment and blame lebeau in the same sentence? troy has been given the choice to free lance and make decisions. how can you say lebeau makes players think to much and then give an example of a future hall of famer making a great play in the defense. our defense is complex and difficult to learn, it also annually ranks at the top of the league, so i think everyone is ok with it being a bit complex. keith butler is also next in line for the DC job. its definitely original haha, but so is saying that kevin kolb will be mvp. original doesnt mean correct or impressive. again arguing with u is just boring because nothing you say holds any weight.
    I look forward to you posting more comments even though you dont care what people think. i like the whole i say one thing but mean the opposite

  • steeltown

    Ha! I appreciate that, I do, but I think Marczi is doing a great job he is more knowledgeable than I, not to mention much more skilled at composition

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