Inside linebackers Vince Williams and Kion Wilson were by no means perfect Monday night as they filled in for the injured Larry Foote, who was lost for the year in the season opener, but both will continue to split playing time on defense Sunday night against the Chicago Bears.
“Both of those players are key players on special teams and I think they’re both going to have to play some scrimmage downs,” defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said Thursday after practice.
Wilson started the game at the buck linebacker spot alongside Lawrence Timmons, but is was Williams, who the Steelers drafted in the sixth-round last April, that played the majority of the snaps. Until one outplays the other, however, we can likely see a rotation of sorts used for quite a while.
“They’re young players and they’re getting some on-the-job training,” said LeBeau. “I think they’re both pretty equal players right now. If one of them shows up and they want the full-time job, I’m sure that’s what Coach Tomlin will do.”
In the loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, Williams was on the field for the touchdown run by Giovani Bernard while Wilson was the buck when Bernard scored from 27 yards out on a short pass. While LeBeau didn’t single either out on Thursday, he did say there might have been a few miscommunications in the game as both the young linebackers were in charge of relaying the defensive calls when on the field.
“We had a couple breakdowns that were very costly and we have to be 100% in that area,” LeBeau said.
On the touchdown reception by Bernard, Wilson reportedly missed making a change that would have resulted in outside linebacker Jason Worilds dropping into coverage instead of rushing the quarterback.
As you can see in the gif below, there was nobody close to Bernard when he caught the dump off and once Wilson slipped making his break forward, that’s all the speedy running back needed to gain the edge.
These young linebackers will continue to make a few mistakes along the way, but at least they play a Bears team Sunday night that runs an offense somewhat similar to the one the Bengals run. Once they clear up the miscommunication problems, hopefully the breakdowns will clear up as well.