Tomlin Details Skill Sets Of His Rookie Linebackers

In the Pittsburgh Steelers 38-31 win this past Sunday over the Green Bay Packers, rookie linebackers Vince Williams and Terence Garvin both saw about equal playing time prior to the latter leaving the game with a knee injury. During his Monday press conference, head coach Mike Tomlin gave an up-to-date assessment of each of their skill sets.

“Garvin is an athletic guy that’s capable of running around,” said Tomlin. “He was a hybrid, if you will, in college. He’s probably more inclined to playing in space and so forth, where Vince is a downhill, nine on seven type linebacker. So we’re trying to utilize both guys, because obviously, both skill sets are assets to us in different situations.”

Williams played 16 snaps against the Packers with 14 coming in the base and the other two coming in the Steelers goal-line defense. Garvin, on the other hand, played 13 snaps and all came in the nickel and dime subpackages.

A few weeks ago, I pointed out that we could possibly see Garvin used more as a nickelbacker moving forward and that indeed wound up being the case, as the team still doesn’t trust Williams’ ability to play in space the way they did with Larry Foote.

It will be interesting to see if the Steelers again address the inside linebacker during the draft and if they do, it will likely be because they don’t think that Sean Spence can make back from his knee injury. At this point, both Williams and Garvin are situational players based on down an distance and personnel groupings that offenses use against them and while that’s not the end of the world, I’m sure they would rather an every down player playing alongside Lawrence Timmons.

  • steeltown

    I think its very possible that they pull the trigger on an ILB at some point in the upcoming draft especially if one falls to them, but I don’t see it as an immediate need or a position of focus. V.Williams and Garvin are both rookies and should only get better in their 2nd yrs with another full offseason.

    I think OLB could end up being the position of need.. and of course DBs

  • J. Hernandez

    Agreed town. Take Mack if he’s still available in their slot? I would unless NT Nix is there.

  • Don2727

    I hope they target ILB early in the draft..I mean real early….Foote getting injured was a huge blow to the defense that never fully recovered as a result….I like V.W but he can’t cover..He is a rookie and hopefully with another year he can become their guy and they can just focus on depth but right now I think the jury is still in deliberations on Garvin and Williams.

  • Lucus Rodriguez

    I am pretty confident in the ILB position. With Williams/Foote playing the more run dominant downs and Spence/Garvin coming in for passing situations and Timmons on the field at all times. That could be a go mix up. Maybe spend another late round pick on an inside guy for depth and hope he is a diamond in the rough. Safety/CB/Tall Offensive Weapon

  • Don2727

    like a sylvester in the fifth round? 🙂

  • AndyR34

    Some late round guys work…A. Smith, B. Keisel, and others…some do not! 🙂

  • Matt Manzo

    With the way we’re developing players we need to look for a Timmons replacement too.

  • Don2727

    Of course..Heck, look at AB and Beachum..I was just kidding around..but in all seriousness..They need another good ILB for this defense to get back to winning football..

  • Don2727

    If spence had not gotten injured to the point that his career is in jeopardy I might say wait until maybe later rounds and pick up a diamond in the so much.

  • Steeler Wheeler

    Tomlin and LeBeau have taken far too long to develop LB. No picks on LB.

  • Steeler Wheeler

    ??? so four years from now, and 3 or more high picks, maybe one guy can figure it out and then leave for top dollar?

  • srdan

    It’s hard to understand the Podcast calling out a need for a ILB. Tim is what he is, a good player. Foote is the vet, and these two young rookies. Throw Sean in the mix, and I don’t see this as a need. Although from what I have gathered from reading and not watchng is that spence and garvin are similar in skillset.

    We have nobody being groomed at OLB. And even less in the secondary.

    ILB is a luxury defensive pick at this point. Not needed. These guys were good enough to beat out some of the vets that were brought in.

  • srdan


    I see hte logic. But some players it jsut clicks for them. Ala Hayward and Worldis. Hopefully our Oline talent can have that click someday soon…….please.

  • Bradys_Dad

    Love Mack – I think that Nix is one to watch with weight issues. He seems sluggish as the game progresses.

  • Dan

    If I focused my whole life on making it to and playing in the NFL and the coach just said that I was “….capable of running around”, I think I’d be a little disappointed.

  • Steeler Fanatic

    I would rather have them pick up a FA (a la the Ravens’ Daryl Smith). I think with Garvin, Williams and (fingers crossed) Spence… somebody like a Pat Angerer, Desmond Bishop or a Joe Mays. Maybe pick up a backup like O’Brien Schofield (Sea) or Paryls Haralson (NO) for the outside… I think it won’t be a priority as worst case they can bring back L. Foote for the league minimum.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    Or better yet make some noise in preseason only to be released or sent to the practice squad then picked up by another team that knows talent when they see it

  • SteelersDepot

    One, there is no guarantee that Foote is back and two, none of us know if Spence will ever play again. That was what the speculation was based on. Perhaps you should go back and listen again. Said MIGHT, not that they WOULD.

  • Kevin Gobleck

    I think I’d rather get Darqueze Dennard instead

  • Don2727

    Totally agree..I do believe a guy named Jarvis Jones is being “groomed” at outside linebacker..With no guarantee of Foote or Spence (a player who has not played at all) being around next year, we will have Timmons and two rookies.

  • pittsburghjoe

    I dont think the ILB situation will change much next year. However, it should improve based on experience. I really dont see how you can throw a pick at the position given the volume of needs at other positions.

  • David Edward

    Figured I’d jump in here to share some thoughts since I’ve played ILB. It’s a read and react position. I like what I see from Vince Williams in that regard considering he’s a rookie. Yes, he made his share of mistakes, but as the game starts to slow down for him from the”read” perspective, he’ll be in better position to make the proper plays. He’s already pretty good at the goal line, and can really stick the ball carrier. I think he’ll be the starter in the base 34 again next year…unless Foote comes back looking like he’s 27 again.

    Garvin, as Tomlin notes, plays like how we used our hybrid SS/ILB when I played in HS (and was part of our base D). The Steelers use it as part of the nickel package that I call a 4-2-5, because the OLBs are just stand up DEs. That position needs to be able to run and cover well, which is why they were using Troy there. Originally, that’s what Spence was drafted for. If Spence can actually play in ’14, then I like the depth at ILB. It not, I think the combo of Williams/Garvin can work out just fine. I wouldn’t recommend using a first or second day pick on an ILB since I expect the unitto be Timmons, Williams, Garvin, Foote, and Spence…with Foote’s cap at$1.8M which isn’t restrictive. If they move on from Fooote, then you might see them pick a hybrid Garvin-type late.

  • David Edward

    Dennard is the guy I’m currently eyeing up as who I think their #1 may be. To me secondary is their biggest need at this point.

  • joed32

    Who have we lost from the practice squad that turned into a good player with another team?

  • srdan

    Jarvis is a starter. There is no grooming. Grooming is someone that is depth with potential of starting in a couple years.

    I would argue that we have a more established ILB core heading into next year than we did this year.

    If foote or spence are gone, I would understand a late round pick at ILB. If both are gone, I would understand a 3-4 rounder.

  • srdan

    I listened again…work is that slow!

  • Kevin Gobleck

    Agreed, although the only other direction i think they would go is WR and a big one like Mike Evans

  • Robert Schultz

    If Shawn Spence is not able to recover from his knee injury next year, does anyone know (for certainty) if the NFL will compensate (additional draft pick ?) the Steelers ?