Steelers Lack Of Experienced Depth At Inside Linebacker Is A Big Concern

Last season, inside linebackers Larry Foote and Lawrence Timmons played in all 16 games for the Pittsburgh Steelers and both very rarely came off of the field. Now that the roster has been trimmed down to 53 players, the Steelers primary backups to both those players are rookie Vince Williams and Kion Wilson.

Williams, who the Steelers drafted in the sixth-round this past April out of Florida State, played well during the preseason as he led the team in total tackles as the BUCK linebacker on the third-team defense.

While we only have 111 preseason snaps to go on, Williams seems to have progressed in his ability to drop into coverage, which was a major concern about him coming out of the draft. As expected, he also played well downhill against the run and appears to be a reliable tackler when he brings his feet with him.

Like Williams, Wilson also played well during the preseason as he collected 10 total tackles and was force on special teams. The main concern, however, about both these new inside linebackers is the fact that neither has played a snap in a regular-season game.

Should Foote or Timmons end up missing time in 2013 with an injury, you would have to think that Williams would be the first one off the bench, being as he best suited to play the BUCK role. In other words, if Timmons were to get injured, Foote would likely assume more of a MACK role.

The good thing about the BUCK and MACK positions with the Steelers over the last few years is that they have blurred in their responsibilities as the team now prefers their inside linebackers to be able to play both positions and linebackers coach Keith Butler has even said as much in interviews.

The best-case scenario for the Steelers in 2013 would include both Foote and Timmons once again staying healthy and on the field. While Williams has been a fast learner, he is bound to make his share of mistakes being as it usually takes at least a full season for a Steelers linebacker to fully grasp the defense.

Should Timmons wind up going down, the Steelers could be in trouble as those are some pretty big shoes that not even Foote will be able to fill should he be the one to assume his role.

It is unfortunate for the Steelers that Stevenson Sylvester never panned out and even more unfortunate that Sean Spence missed his rookie season due to a serious knee suffered last season. Spence will start the 2013 season on the Reserve PUP list, but being as the team decided to keep only four inside linebackers, perhaps it is a sign that they think their third-round draft pick from last year will be able to play after missing the first six-weeks of the season.

One can only hope that is indeed the case as the Steelers lack of depth at the inside linebacker position currently rivals that of their offensive line. A healthy Spence, even though he has yet to play in a regular season game like Williams and Wilson, would help out tremendously.

  • steeltown

    I think we found a gem in V.Williams… im still alittle upset about McFadden, but the Team has its reasons..special teams has been atrocious and im down for whatever they think can rectify that

  • Arthur Branch

    I hope they rotate Vince in more and more this season. The kids got to play to grasp the offense. His foot speed and athletic ability will make him an upgrade over Foote when he grasps the D. I would think if Sean came back this year he would not have the speed he showed last year. I look for him to push Foote next year.

  • Bell Cow

    I’m not concerned at all about our back up inside linebackers. It’s a relief to finally move on from the Sylvester experiment that lasted way too long. Our team needs a youth movement on defense and these two players, especially Vince Williams have future starter potential.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I like where Williams is at. Not sure how much better we would be with Sly back there but Williams will be pushing Foote for a starting spot next year.

  • Ahmad

    Yeah the lack of depth is VERY concerning and keeping an extra TE probably cost us McFadden or Rolle. Oh well hopefully Timmons and Foote can stay healthy all year long again and make the lack of depth a moot point.

  • dennisdoubleday

    They didn’t attempt to sign McFadden to the PS, so maybe we all way overestimated what the the team thought of him.


    Man! Just play football they are on the team now Let’s go!

  • MoSteel79

    After my initial surprise at McFadden, Garvin and Rolle being cut, I was hoping that the moves they made at ILB meant that Spence was further along than we all thought…also glad to see that at least Garvin made it PS. I like Williams and Wilson as backups but lack like the article says their lack of NFL experience is a bit concerning

  • charles

    I think you and Dave are right about Spence’s progress and the fact that they only kept 4 inside backers. Can’t wait to see Williams separate someone from the ball, he will be a defensive player of the year right after Timmons wins it this year.

  • charles

    Yep, Williams. Yep, special teams needs to get up to speed in a hurry.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Keep in mind that everybody was talking about Sylvester in the exact same way three years ago. Late sixth round draft picks are no guarantee, no matter how good they may look in their first preseason.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Certainly seems to be the case.

  • Bell Cow

    I’ll take my chances with Williams. He’s already won the approval of the coaching staff to be considered a back up to Larry Foote in year 1. That gives me a lot more confidence that he’ll only continue to improve and possibly fight for a starting job down the line.

  • MoSteel79

    I hope so!