Time Is Now To Give Vince Williams The Starter Title To Go Along With Starter Snaps

By Matthew Marczi

The writing has been on the wall for the past two weeks, and perhaps this week will be the one that converts words into action. Since the Week One season-ending injury to inside linebacker Larry Foote, the Pittsburgh Steelers have spent the past two weeks deploying their shiny new backup linebackers—Kion Wilson and Vince Williams—in an uneven platoon in order to assume those lost snaps from their starter.

Kion Wilson has been the starter for the past two weeks—but perhaps only in name. That is because Vince Williams has been seeing the bulk of the snaps at the Buck linebacker position, which includes calling out the plays to the defense, which is an especially big responsibility for a rookie.

In each of the past two weeks, Williams has played approximately half of the team’s defensive snaps, while Wilson has played about a quarter of the snaps. The other quarter, of course, was played in the dime package with safeties Shamarko Thomas and Robert Golden, which affords Troy Polamalu to play a more quasi-linebacker role where he can be most effective. Expect that look to continue throughout the season, and perhaps beyond.

Yesterday, Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider spoke to Williams after practice. Williams reportedly took every rep in yesterday’s practice with the first-team defense, but according to Wexell, he would not go so far as to say that he felt that was an indication that he would start on Sunday.

Wexell, and I, respectfully disagree with the young man. To that end, the Steelers have updated their depth chart to list Wilson and Williams as co-starters as well, this just a big, fat “or” separating the rookie from the starting spot now.

Vince Williams has come a long way since he was drafted with the Steelers’ compensatory pick in the sixth round of this past draft. I have already detailed much of his progression in previous articles, so it is unnecessary to rehash it further here.

Suffice it to say that while it may be a surprise to see a sixth round rookie starting at the Buck linebacker position for the Pittsburgh Steelers, when you take a bit of a closer look at the situation, it really is not that surprising.

Williams was arguably the team’s best player on defense during the preseason. While he has had some growing pains and some miscues during his first two games of action, he has also shown a lot of promise, and the team obviously feels comfortable with the way he has been able to communicate the defense.

Williams is already logging the starter’s snaps in this scenario. It is time to give him the title to go along with it. Mike Tomlin said that he will continue to rotate both linebackers in until one of them seizes the position, and it appears that time will be soon. Get ready for a Dick LeBeau defense that starts not one, but two rookie linebackers.

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

    Love this kid

  • JB

    There are some bright spots so far this season – It looks like we have three rookies in Jones, Williams and Thomas who look like very good players for years to come. Suddenly, this “old” defense looks pretty young and still solid (if we can only get some turnovers).

  • cencalsteeler

    Give him the nod!!!

  • chris ward

    Would like to see Vince Williams take over as the starter, I think he has more upside than Wilson. Williams has a lot of potential.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    You mention OLD defense. If you look at our D right now, we are at 28.25 as the average starting age. If next year happens they way I think it will with Keisel and Clark going away and Shamarko and Heyward taking over, that number moves down to 26.36. This team is getting young in a hurry. We have to hope they get it together to the point that they can perform the way they need to as well.

  • charles

    Williams got lucky with the injury to Foote. Otherwise LeBeau would have him rotting on the sidelines. Did Nick Williams get hurt? If not, it is time to put a helmet on him. The Steelers HAVE TO GET SACKS. And in bunches. That is the missing element to this D and our season

  • SteelersDepot

    Nick Williams has been on IR for a long while.

  • steeltown

    Next year I think N.Williams will get a shot to be a backup DE

  • steeltown

    A lot of young hopefuls on Defense..even guys not contributing right now like Alan Baxter, Arnfelt and N. Williams. I think the biggest need moving forward is CB

  • Mike.H

    Have you seen Vince William’s massive hamstrings? Let’s anoint him Levon Kirkland Jr.

    Once he settles in, should be fine LB. [ Perhaps the goal line hit on the 245pound LB could’ve been a little harder and save a TD ].

  • Mike.H

    I always get Vince and Nick crossed up. Vince is LB. Nick is DE?

  • Matthew Marczi

    Agreed about CB. I can see them going first round there for the first time since Rod. I also wouldn’t be shocked by an ILB as far as defense goes. Otherwise it could be WR or TE.

  • Bilgewater D

    Stop giving reps to Wilson. He’ never going to be anything more than adequate. Williams has the potential to be a monster. Give him Wilson’s reps and watch him blossom.

  • dgh57

    If Adams/Gilbert don’t show improvement OT has to be considered because as of now this OL/OTs are far from playing lights out. If they do then they can go like you said.

  • Shea Fahr

    Just goes to show that a little Brain Power can take a person a long way. The kid has always been smart as well as a hard hitter. He is a Rook so he will make mistakes. He is the future on the inside.

  • steeltown

    Yep, once Ike hangs em up we’re really in trouble as far as CB depth goes.. also wouldn’t mind having s stud TE to play alongside Miller

  • Shea Fahr

    I as well Steeltown.

  • Shea Fahr

    Yes

  • steeltown

    Those are my two biggest concerns moving forward in the future.. a stud LT (unless Gilbert, Adams or Beachum greatly improve their games) and another starting CB

  • Kenneth Wilt

    On defense our biggest needs are CB and S in that order.

    On offense our biggest needs are a stud LT, a WR, and a TE.

    What we take in the draft from those positions comes down to where we pick. If we pick #4 like we would be right now…Jake Matthews (OT) is probably our pick. If we are in the 10-15 range, I would select Mike Evans (WR) as he is BIG and PHYSICAL. I also really like the idea of Eric Ebron (TE), and think he would be there in round 2 for us. If we go LT, TE, and WR, I would look at Allen Robinson out of PSU if he comes out. He will be probably a 3rd rounder right now, but I think he has impact potential in the NFL.

  • cp72

    I hate to brag but I have been on the Vince Williams band wagon since the senior bowl

  • RedCarpetDefense

    Dang we talkin’ draft already..!! LoL

  • RedCarpetDefense

    So noncommittal. Take the training wheels off already. Be committed to one player (whoever that player is) let the kid play and the fans will live with his growing pains….presumably.

  • RedCarpetDefense

    This co-starter stuff is getting tired. Worilds/Jones, Williams/Wilson…is it so hard to simply name a starter? What does it matter if say Worilds starts a series but never sees the field the rest of the game? The best player PLAYS…thats it. Or is the coaching staff still “evaluating” talent four weeks into the season?

  • Impact3697

    Watching the All 22 of the Bears game, it sure looked to me like Vince was better at finding the ball and getting through the trash, than even Timmons. He’s definitely more natural on the inside than Timmons was as a young player. Vince may have been our best inside player vs the run in this game.. Looks like he could be a solid long time starter, a la Larry Foote, just bigger and stronger.. Hopefully he keeps it up

  • Kenneth Wilt

    Never too early to talk the draft. As the season goes on, even if we were 3-0, we need to identify what areas of weakness we have. Where are the weak links.

  • Steeler Wheeler

    I know everyone loves low draft picks, and I for one think that losing Foote will ultimately be a blessing, but…to date, Williams has looked slow, timid and very weak. However, he’s a great communicator so maybe he could get a job for NATO or be an Air Traffic Controller? Steelers cut all the other ILB so it’s Williams or bust…figure it out, and soon, Rookie!

  • Xclewsive

    Vince Williams can play and as the season goes along I expect to see him make huge strides. Every mock draft I ever did Vince Williams was alway in them. This kid has talent.

  • Mike Carroll

    Nice numbers.

  • Jonas

    this.
    Saw him in many mocks (even in dave bryan’s, right?) watched some tape, put him in my own mock draft & love him ever since!

    Were happy that we drafted him, but of course he’s still a rookie AND ‘just’ a 6th round pick..!

  • RW

    What about a tall, athletic WR?

  • RW

    And only a backup.

  • RW

    While our DEs have been allowed to rush more, they are not who we count on to get to the QB. That would be our LBs, particularly the OLBs. They need to get home.

  • RW

    Not to mention the ridiculous carousel of RBs this season…

  • RW

    Don’t know where this assessment comes from. He’s been playing really well (see every other assessment here). He’s big and fast, and may be a bit hesitant, but so was Timmons for his first three years. He’ll be fine and will adjust quickly.

  • Bilgewater D

    Wow, completely disagree with you.
    He’s showing well for a rook.

  • MC

    I did the same thing. I had him going to us in the 6th also. I loved watching him blow up option plays against Virginia and Georgia Tech, so happy he’s on the team. We need to get back to hitting football and i think he’s gonna bring it the most out of the lbs going forward.

  • MC

    I’ve watched every snap this season and it really does seem like the steelers are still in preseason mode.
    Switching players in and out, naming co starters and pulling tackles mid game….All of this should of been sorted weeks ago.

  • Informed reader

    Great news. Put in the people who perform best. If they are rookies, even better. He’ll just get better as he gets more experience. Maybe seeing two rookies starting on a defense that is notorious for making rookies sit will light a fire under some of our underachieving veterans. If they feel they could possibly lose their starting role, maybe they’ll try a little harder.

  • Riverstko

    Hopefully Vince will be able to make game changing plays. He plays solid D. I watched him at FSU for years. I want to see him take it to the next level.

  • Dan

    The 2013 draft could end up being the best draft for the Steelers since 1987.

  • steeltown

    I agree.. but we have the young Wheaton who we haven’t utilized (yet) and of course we got a glimpse of J.Brown and Moye this preseason… now im not saying we don’t need another stud big bodied guy, especially once Cotchery and Sanders are gone, but im not ready to say we need to draft a WR in the 1st or 2nd Rd