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Steelers May Turn To Rookie Vince Williams To Replace Larry Foote In Starting Lineup


By Matthew Marczi

Following the ruptured biceps injury suffered by Pittsburgh Steelers starting inside linebacker Larry Foote, who was just placed on injured reserve, it goes without saying that the team must turn to somebody else now at the position after Foote played nearly every snap just a season ago.

In Sunday’s loss, Kion Wilson replaced him on defense, playing nine snaps in the process. Terence Garvin was also dressed for special teams purposes. Of course, Wilson was also dressed primarily for special teams purposes as well before injuries forced him to log snaps on defense.

Conversely, rookie sixth-round draft pick Vince Williams was left without a helmet on game day because the team obviously believed that Wilson and Garvin would be bigger assets on special teams.

Given that, one should definitely not rule out the possibility of the Steelers not only dressing Williams on Monday night against the Cincinnati Bengals, but also having him start in place of Foote, next to Lawrence Timmons, who will be taking over the signal-calling responsibilities for the remainder of the year, most likely.

The bottom of the roster earns its game day hats by what it can offer on special teams, particularly at positions such as wide receiver, defensive back, and, of course, linebacker. Thus, just because Williams was not dressed for Week One does not mean that he would not be the first player the coaches turn to to replace an injured starter on defense.

Remember, Williams was promoted to second-team inside linebacker after the first wave of cuts that saw Stevenson Sylvester released following an ankle injury that limited him to just one snap in the preseason.

In fact, I even speculated that Marshall McFadden could be brought back as a candidate to start Week Two, since his release was primarily predicated on his unimpressive special teams performance, which would be rendered moot for whoever ultimately starts.

Vince Williams came to this team with a low pedigree as a late sixth-round pick and a lot of question marks, particularly that surrounding his ability to cover, because he was a two-down linebacker in college.

However, he spent the offseason and the preseason games answering all the questions about him to not only make the final roster, but to continue to stick following the flurry of last-minute roster cosmetics the Steelers employed through the waiver wire.

In fact, if you consider the data from Pro Football Focus, Williams had an excellent preseason campaign, during which he graded out as the third-highest inside linebacker across the entire league in his 89 snaps, trailing just Daryl Smith and Dane Fletcher.

His overall score of 5.3 was even more impressive considering it included a positive grading in every aspect, from stopping the run to rushing the passer, and even in coverage. Kion Wilson also graded out well, but nobody else on the team came close Williams’ grade.

Of course, none of that really means much of anything, and it will come down to the coaches to decide who replaces Foote. Perhaps they saw enough of Wilson in his few snaps replacing Foote on Sunday to feel comfortable sticking with him. Or perhaps they will give a certain segment of fans their wish earlier than anticipated in making Williams the heir apparent at inside linebacker.

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About Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • lefnor

    Williams is a rookie, he won’t start. Kion Wilson knows the system and was the best backup ILB candidate through preseason. He is the best blitzer of the backup ILB group with his fluid movement skills. He will be solid.

  • steeltown

    We start playing guys like Jarvis Jones and V.Williams more.. and I think we’ll start seeing a few more turnovers

  • Garrett Hunt

    For sure. Something I noticed with the team as a whole is that they need to play with more passion/edge. I think putting in young guys can help in that regard.

  • Bell Cow

    I hope they let Williams play. This team needs a youth movement on defense, so let the young guys like Willams, Jones, and Shamarko play. Yes, they will make mistakes, but it will be the best thing for this team in the long run.

  • ELIJAH

    Put Williams in let him show you what he’s got he’s good one.

  • ELIJAH

    YES!

  • Christopher Wilkes

    I hope you’re right. There will be a steep learning curve, but I think it would be the right move. Say goodbye to Foote’s career.

  • Steeler Goetz

    That’s an interesting opinion. Wilson only had 4 tackles, 4 assists, and 1 sack in 3 games during the pre-season. And in the game against the Panthers he didn’t register a single tackle, assist or anything whether as a linebacker or on special teams. Williams, on the other hand, more than double Wilson’s total tackles (9) and had a sack, too.

  • ATL96STEELER

    I think the LB situation is the least of the problems…but happy to see more athletic players…agree with Steeltown…let the young guys play…Thomas as well, and the turnovers will pickup.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I said this yesterday but Foote only has 1-2 years left anyways. This is probably a blessing in disguise, you find out what you have in one of these young ILB’s

  • Luke Shabro

    I hope they let Williams play for the sheer fact that he’s a heavy hitter/thumper and I want to see more attitude in the run defense. I love Larry and he’s been great for years and I’m never happy when a player is injured, but I just don’t think he had it anymore. Vince is young and powerful. I hope they make the right decision.

  • Superdriller316

    If they bring someone in, I think it should be Rolle. He’s better in coverage, and that would free up Timmons to rush the QB. They kept Wilson and Williams for a reason. They think they are better than the ones they cut. Bringing someone back to start only says the FO made a mistake in cutting them in the first place. I say let Williams have his shot. This crap that “he’s a rookie” is just a bunch of BS. Hell, we played a rookie center.

  • Spencer Krick

    If they don’t sign Sly or McFadden back, could be another positive indicator for Spence.

  • Steeler Wheeler

    In the pass happy NFL, Foote was a liability and Lebeau, for whatever reason, wouldn’t take him off the field. Nice career, Larry, but you were brought back to be a run stopper, not a 3-down LB. Shark Thomas should be on the field at least 50% of the plays. Hopeful that Lebeau doesn’t try to jam another square linebacker into the round hole, extra DB, please!

  • cencalsteeler

    What kind of statement are you making as an organization when you cut a player and then put your tail between your legs and ask them to come back. Rookie or not. Bring in your “next man up” philosophy and stay in house. Williams and Wilson are very serviceable lbs and should be promoted. Bringing back Sly or McFadden would deflate the confidence of the young lbs already on the roster and might bring back negativity to the locker room again. This also makes one question whether or not the coaching staff made the right moves during roster cuts.

  • Jeff

    THIS ^

  • bill

    you are all being a little harsh on foote who represented the city of pittsburgh with blue collar class and heart. Larry’s faith will bring him back to the NFL at a high level wether it is with pitt or not next season. starting for 12+ years at LB in the NFL is no fluke.

  • Chad H

    Looks like Wilson over Williams will get the start. I believe Williams has more upside and ability than Wilson.
    My question is why is Carter on this roster? Cut his butt bring up Baxter then find another O-line for the practice squad I think we will need another body.
    LB position is looking good except dead weight Carter. Get the rookies some experience. They proved they can play and create turnovers.

  • Matthew Marczi

    The bottom of the roster is always for special teams first, offense or defense second. Carter is a better special teams player than Baxter, and, realistically, when is either one going to see the field?

  • Soliciting Steelers

    OMG Start Vince and let the post-Foote era begin already, geez!

  • lefnor

    Look at the tape instead of the stat sheet.

  • lefnor

    But Baxter has huge upside (great pass rushing skills, exactly what the team needs) and you can loose him from the practice squad. Until he is there, it’s ok. But if someone steals him…

  • daddeeekip

    Even though he maybe a rookie, Butler talked about how quickly he learned the defense and how he was making defensive calls for the team in preseason.The kid deserves a chance and we should put the most talented player out there instead of the most experienced. We all mostly would rather see Jarvis Jones over Worilds but Worilds keep getting snaps because of his experience. This why we have lost talent because experience and potential is valued over talent and thus this is why the cupboard is bare and we have players that just ok at best. Its time the coaches learn how to implement a system for young players to perform and grow into the 3-4 defense, nothing is better than trial by fire.

  • Chad H

    Matt thanks for stating the obvious Steelers way. Now back to making changes to spark a team and see what a young guy has that demonstrated ability in the preseason.
    Wow we hear Carter’s name called for special teams play all the time don’t we? Not! Carter played 8 snaps on defense. I would give those to Baxter for experience. Baxters preseason was almost as good as Woodleys rookie preseason.
    During the preseason I saw more pass rush ability from him than Jones. Not saying he deserves to start over Jones but Carter hell yes.

  • Matthew Marczi

    You asked why Carter was on the roster. If you didn’t want that question answered, or already knew the answer, why did you ask it?

    There’s absolutely no harm in keeping Carter on the roster and Baxter on the practice squad. Keeping Adrian Robinson on the 53 last year bit him in the ass. He had a “great” preseason (as much as a great performance against a bunch of future burger flippers means anything) last year and yet he showed minimal growth from year one to year two. But because he used up his practice squad eligibility last year, we were screwed and had to let him go.

    It’s not like either of them will ever be in the starting lineup behind Woodley and Jones any time soon. What do you mean Carter played 8 snaps on defense? Are you confusing him with Kion Wilson? Carter is 54 and Wilson is 55. Carter only saw time on special teams and registered a tackle.

    Honestly, what difference does it make whether Baxter is on the 53 or the practice squad this year? The only difference is the amount he’s paid. He wouldn’t be dressing, so there’s no need for him to be on the active roster unless you’re really concerned about his financial situation.

  • Chad H

    What? I appreciate the conversation, but you must be a psychology professor because what you posted is gibberish and makes zero sense.
    Why would I be concerned about his financial situation? Please go back and review his (Baxter) college tape, the analysis on him and what he did in preseason. Then find the stats on Carter since he has been in the NFL. Maybe then you will UNDERSTAND the words coming out of my mouth!

  • Matthew Marczi

    That was a joke, dude. The point is that Baxter would not be playing regardless of whether he was on the active roster or the practice squad, so it doesn’t make a difference which one he’s on. I also recommend being more respectful to others in your comments here.

  • Chad H

    Sorry Matt I truly mean no disrespect. That is why I posted appreciate the conversation. The point I am trying to make is we kept A. Robinson last year on the active roster. Yes I know Carter or Baxter should or will not play unless injuries occur. Remember an undrafted guy named James Harrison? Finally made the team and was a beast. No I am not comparing Baxter to him. The point is the guy has the potential to be that guy. Carter has zero ability. Last post on this subject. Once again sorry if I disrespected you. I just feel any debate on Carter still being on this roster is a lost debate. Please if you don’t know anything on this kid look him up.

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