Competition At Inside Linebacker Still Going?

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.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • Steeler Wheeler

    This Williams dude has gotten a longer leash than Adams. With all the praise he’s received, I think he might be in charge of this site? Can anyone show us just one play where the Williams was good? How about decent? Has he ever made a tackle for a loss, has he ever stopped a RB short of a three yard gain? There were some nice defensive stands in the 3Q of the Bears game, did Williams contribute?

    More importantly, the coaching staff should be getting shredded for the release of Sylvester and/or McFadden. Foote was just a stop-gap who never had the athletic skills to defend the pass, yet he played every down and the Steelers didn’t develop his replacement…and don’t say Sean Spence…they’ve known since August 2012 that this guy might never play.

  • Xclewsive

    Vince Williams will be fine with playing time. Buts its hard to learn on the fly and make plays. I fully expect Williams to improve week to week. Getting shredded by Peterson will make him better.

  • Jason

    I have to agree with you. I’ll go a step further and say it’s time to expect more from Jarvis Jones. I know he’s a rookie but rookie pass rushers have made big contributions with other teams. Time for him to make a splash

  • HopalongCassidy

    This season is likely a bust and turning around a roster from bad to good usually takes some time. Given that, the Steelers need to consider going to a 4-3 defense next year with Arnfelt at DE. I say let Polamalu ,and Kiesel go to save some big bucks. Trade Woodley or move him to DE. Find a real good free agent cornerback. Draft a good D-lineman and cornerback as well. On offense, find a quality free agent LT and draft one as well. Move Pouncey to LG unless he wants too much money to stay in which case, let him go and move Beachum to that spot. This roster needs to be revamped quickly in order to get the most out of it while Ben is still productive. Otherwise, the balance of his career will be wasted because of an inferior team around him.

  • Mike Carroll

    I’ve been thinking the same thing about Jarvis Jones. This team needs him to be a playmaker, rookie or not.

  • Virdin Barzey

    Dude, I couldn’t disagree with you anymore with your comments. First off, you are putting a rookie at the position that calls the defense. Why do you think Foote was brought back? His superior playmaking skills? No. Its his knowledge of running the defense like what the QB does on the other side. Its probably the toughest spot on the defense since even Timmons can’t do it. Sylvester and McFadden weren’t any good and if you really watch them, they weren’t very smart. The team had grand plans and hopes for Sean Spence (yes we said it) and still believes he’s the future because they believe he will recover. Sylvester had all the opportunity in the world to take the position and never could. If you have younger talent who’s better, let him learn. The real problem is that no one else on this defense is making plays so for you to single out the rookie is nonsense. Is he playing well? Nope but neither is Hood, Clark, Timmons, etc. How you figure that Williams got a longer leash than Adams is beyond crazy to me. Adams played last year (different side) and started this year. Then you are comparing a 2nd round pick to a six round pick? We’re done here.

  • Fritz Baughman

    Very well said, especially with the comment on Sylvester. He isn’t even on a friggen’ football team right now, yet we have a fan suggesting the coaching staff should be ‘shredded’ for releasing him. Yep, Sylvester was so damn good that 31 other football teams have ignored his ass. Does the average Steeler fan even know what the hell he is talking about? My guess is…not really.

  • Mike.H

    When Sean Spence does come back, does he have the BULK to tangle with 325lb OG?

    Or his shiftiness would compensate better than Vince Williams who didn’t exactly light his position on fire as a rookie [ which led to 60 yd runs]?

  • dgh57

    I agree with what you say and I might add that we don’t have D-Linemen eating up blockers so our LBs can roam free like when Hampton & Smith were here. What we are seeing out of Williams is what’s to be expected out of a 6th rd. draft pick and that’s time to learn his position.

  • Kevin Gobleck

    Can’t let go of troy, he is out there looking like he is 24 again.

  • dgh57

    I don’t know where Spence fits in because I remember when he was drafted that Butler said they would have to cover him up for him to make plays. Meaning our DL has to do their job better and occupy blockers which is a concern because they’re not doing it now. This year at least, I don’t see him playing much but on certain designed plays maybe even play some Safety. Beyond this year who knows.

  • Bilgewater D

    6th round rookie, 3 games in, and you guys expect him to be lighting it up? I don’t even have to say how silly this sounds.

    The blame lies with Colbert. Daryl Smith was available as a free agent and was a major upgrade to Foote. He could have been signed to a cap friendly deal.

  • Chad H

    The first 2 games the defense played really good. So it is not time to kill them for one game as bad as it was.
    The issues I see:
    1. McClendon is not controlling the line of scrimmage and taking on 2 lineman.
    2. Timmons is holding the leash of Williams or Wilson so he is not free to play his game.
    3. Jones is not sacking the QB. Yes he is young, however I see him as the the new buck ILB and I believe he will be a beast there.
    The last issue with the loss to the Vikes was Allen was not ready and Gay (who has played well) should have replaced him. I still think Allen will be fine he just wasn’t ready for that game.

  • Matt Manzo

    I still wish we grabbed Kiko Alonzo! I hope Williams can turn the corner.

  • Eric

    Sounds great if we can afford to ignore the offense and were not restricted by the salary cap

  • sean mcmartin

    Competition is over..They both lose. The bigger picture is the team has lost all their swagger..Now tell me how Tomlin is a great coach. The good part is this is the beginning of the end for MT.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I already posted an article addressing your questions. Find it.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Williams had nothing to do with that run, for what it’s worth. The ILBs ran a cross, so if either of them were to blame, it would be Timmons. But Ike is the one who missed the tackle.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Great players and teams get shredded by Peterson so no one should get their panties in a bunch because Williams had a poor day against him.

  • HopalongCassidy

    But…what is he doing except running around ? Sure, he makes a big splash play now and again but what about all the other times he is out of position ? Does he have any interceptions ? Look, last year he missed most of the season and the defense played better than they are playing this year. The loss of Keenan Lewis was a bigger deal than Troy coming back healthy. Also, his salary prevents the Steelers from signing some more important pieces of the overall puzzle…like a good OT. The Steelers can not afford him if they want to be competitive across the board. You can’t pay a safety what Troy is getting, period.

  • HopalongCassidy

    I’m not talking about ignoring the offense. Note, I said use some of that money saved to get a decent free agent LT and perhaps a guard or another RT. Money needs to be spent to improve the O-line. The Steelers have some other weapons at the skill positions but the line is killing them.

  • tricitysteel

    Those people that want Tomlin gone and think that this is the beginning of the end for him better be prepared for a long beginning because the end is nowhere in sight.

  • Xclewsive

    Its crazy that people are getting after Vince Williams like he’s some high round pick. Williams is rookie and that’s the bottom line. But for some odd reason Steelers fans believe if your drafted your suppose to be part of the LB legacy!

  • Chad H

    Matthew I searched the site unable to find the post.
    Is what I posted differ from yours?

  • Paul Jones

    real talk i never even thought of jones at ilb, could be a beast. He doesn’t look like he has the speed size or moves to get to the qb from olb. Dude needs to hit the weight room and lay off the subway. Add some protein to that diet.