By Matthew Marczi
Is there any clarity yet at the inside linebacker spot? After the events of the past three weeks, I do not believe so.
Even though Kion Wilson had been listed as the starter replacing the injured Larry Foote, he only played a quarter of the team’s snaps during the second and third games, while rookie Vince Williams took about half of the snaps.
This past week, Williams started the game and played 43 of the team’s 52 defensive snaps, while Wilson saw no time on defense. That would certainly seem as though the question has been answered, no?
However, Mike Tomlin listed Wilson on the injury report after the game with a hamstring or quad injury. I am not entirely sure when the injured occurred. He did not miss any snaps on special teams, however.
More importantly, in his most extensive playing time, Williams had what was clearly his roughest game yet. That included contributing two missed tackles to one of the team’s worst tackling efforts in recent memory.
Before the game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Tomlin addressed the inside linebacker position:
I’m excited about watching these guys play tonight. Kion Wilson is going to play. Vince Williams is going to play. Both of those guys, to this point, have shown that they are capable men, and it’s going to be exciting to see them step forward and carry the torch for Larry.
Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau was asked which of the two he felt would be best to take over the job:
Both of those players are key players on special teams and I think they’re both going to have to play some scrimmage downs. If one of them clearly separates themselves from the other, they’ll be getting the majority of the snaps. They’re young players and they’re getting some on-the-job training. I think they’re both pretty equal players right now. One of them shows up and they want the full-time job, I’m sure that’s what Coach Tomlin will do.
The performance that Williams turned in during his first official start certainly did not show much separation, which suggests to me that the competition between the two is still very much on.
Wilson has an extra week to heal from his injury. Assuming he does, it will be interesting to monitor his snap count, if he does get some snaps, to see just how much life is left in this competition.