The More, The Better For Vince Williams In Adjusting To Pro Speed

By Matthew Marczi

The signs all seem to be pointing toward rookie linebacker Vince Williams edging ever closer to being anointed the starter for the Pittsburgh Steelers, which could happen as early as this Sunday in London against the Minnesota Vikings. He is certainly not worrying himself over it, however.

Even though he has played twice the number of snaps that Kion Wilson—the starter by title—has played over the last two weeks; even though he has been the one taking the first-team reps in practice this week: Williams is still not taking it for granted.

Nor has he taken anything for granted since he’s gotten here. He spent the offseason learning both inside linebacker positions knowing that an injury could arise on any occasion to afford an opportunity for another player.

One could say that happened during the preseason when Stevenson Sylvester was injured due to friendly fire, which afforded Williams a greater opportunity to showcase his natural ability and his growth as a coverage linebacker, which was a potential concern for him coming out of college.

The season-ending injury to Larry Foote, of course, was the biggest opportunity of all, as unfortunate as it may be. Odds are we would not be discussing Vince Williams much at all, who spent Week One on the inactive list, had the veteran linebacker not ruptured his bicep in the season opener.

That injury once again afforded Williams the opportunity to showcase his growth and development on the field. Of course, it has come with more growing pains now that he is consistently playing against starter-caliber talent.

One of the things that Williams has discussed struggling with—which is no surprise—is the speed of the game. Every rookie seemingly talks about the speed of the game and how much faster it is than in college, or even in the preseason, but some things are clichés for a good reason.

One thing that he has not struggled with, however, is embracing his quasi-leadership role on defense as the signal caller. He was the defensive leader in college, after all, so it was an easier transition. As he told Ed Bouchette:

I was really comfortable making the calls. The hard part was getting used to how fast things move in the NFL, the motions, the shifts, those adjustments. Understanding the defense, I felt like that was something I could go home and do. I went home and got in the playbook and went over my assignments. I’d go in the mirror and sound out my calls so when I communicated them they would come out smooth.

Being comfortable in the defense has generally been the greatest impediment for rookies on the Steelers to earn playing time on defense, but Williams is a heady player, and seems to be grasping things rather well, which is why the team is trusting him with so much responsibility. And if his biggest problem is adjusting to the speed of the game, what better way than for him to play at that speed himself?

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • chris ward

    Vince Williams has a high football IQ if he is grasping Dick Lebeau’s defense this early in his rookie year. Looking forward to seeing Williams play this year and in the future.

  • cencalsteeler

    I spoke previously how this years draft class was made up of primarily captains of their respected colleges. Great draft pick up by the Steelers as Matt mentioned, he’s already become a vocal leader, is picking up the plays, adjusting to the speed of the NFL, and being the signal caller of our D as a rook. There are a lot of Colbert bashers out there, and it’s time to give credit where credit is due. Nice job Colbert and staff on the Williams pick!

  • Richard Doucette

    So I guess Warren Sapps assessment that the Steeler D is old no longer applies. We have 2 rookies playing well at linebacker, a new nose tackle, a new corner and several promising new safeties for the future. I love how our D looks. The only change I would make is to find a true NT and move McClendon to DE.

  • Reese Dare

    We could be set at linebacker for the next 3-4 years. Time for TE, CB, LT, WR1

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    Well that’s a relief, he doesn’t have a King’s speech syndrome.

    Aside of my lame joke, seriously this kid is proving everyday he is a steal and a good pick. Heading into absolute direction and only if Jarvis Jones can adopt Worilds’ pass-rushing and then I’ll call this draft class the best, not since 2010 but 1987. A bold statement!

  • Safety

  • Steeler Wheeler

    I’m hoping for the best from this kid, but I haven’t seen any clips and pics of his play. From my DVR, he looks slow, timid and weak, tackling guys after 8 yard runs and totally failing to clean up Michael Bush after Timmons stopped him on fourth and goal. I need this cat to play just 1/2 as well as the folks on this site think. Propaganda. show me some video and you’ll see this dude is not yet up to Steeler standards.

  • dgh57

    What you are seeing on your DVR is a Rookie who is going to look slow, and timid because he’s not sure what he is doing out there. Remember we were saying the same things about Timmons when he first came aboard. We all need to be patient with him.

  • Steeler Wheeler

    I agree…and I’m not condoning him for his play, he is a rookie sixth rounder. I’m just confused why so many love him for doing nothing so far…actually, he’s been detrimental. I know he’ll get better, but I would have preferred that he make that stop, take the ball from Bush and go 100 yards for a score…is that asking too much?

  • Jazz

    I will give him credit for this draft class; on paper and from what I’ve seen thus far, looks like a really good draft class. However, I’m not even willing to back down from the criticism I’ve made of him from previous draft classes.

  • Eric

    If it was not for the retarded Landry Jones pick, when we could have had Jonathan Franklin and so many others, I would agree with you that this draft was otherwise a great one.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    No comment on Landry Jones pick lol but when cowboys were picking ahead of us in 4th I was pretty sure we’d have gotten BJ Webb the cornerback from William and Mary but when Cowboys took him you could see Steelers’ pick took a lot longer. I’m positive they wanted him as well, then looking at roster’s need and said “hey we need a quarterback”.

    Sad but yeah. However looking at JJones, Shamarko, V. Williams- all three are major contributors on Lebeau’s defense… even 87′ class can’t say that. NOT even 74′ (okay I’m pushing it) but you get my point, a really damn good class.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    Vince williams lost his footings on that poor tackle. it take discipline and experience to make such tackle, same goes for timmons. Vince will be fine. Larry Foote already is a liability on running downs, having Vince in there helps us a lot more than most would think.

    I’d think the fact Lebeau gave Vince Williams the calling duty and not Timmons say more about V. Williams than it does for Timmons.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Foote wasn’t anything more than a stop gap solution to the position anyways. I think it was a blessing for the Steelers long term that Foote was injured so we can get a guy in there who will play for the next 10 years hopefully….go Williams!!!

  • dgh57

    Maybe there’s something to the fact Rookie LBers never start for the Steelers after all!

    The fans that like/love him are taking a hyperopic view of him because they are more concerned with his future play.

    You are taking a myopic view of things because you are concerned more with how he is playing now. That is why you’re confused because the two views conflict.

    The only solution I can give you is to become more hyperopic and join the crowd in your view of V. Williams.

  • charles

    I am very close to being a Colbert basher. Look at the mediocrity of all his linemen. Both O and D. To Colberts credit, LeBeau does not lend a good picture of linemen. Bicknell is doing a very good job, you can see this in the lack of penalties.

  • charles

    Besides the fact that Timmons should have STUFFED Bush himself.

  • charles

    Vince will be better than Lewis.

  • cencalsteeler

    Patience is a virtue. We have been used to veteran oline and dline for some time now. Now that there are young guys in there, we are not used to this, it almost seems foreign. But for the most part, these guys are great athletes at their positions, they just need time to fine tune and adjust to the difference between NFL and the college level. We need to learn to walk before we can run (no pun intended, well maybe).
    Me personally, if they add a mean streak to them, you will see a great improvement in their play.

  • charles

    Yep. The mean streak left with Colon. The new center, though, seems to have a Mike Webster bite to him. When he replaced Colbert’s theoretical best success at a drafted lineman, you saw an immediate increase in the pass protection.