Vince Williams Living Up To Scouting Report

By Matthew Marczi

When the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted rookie inside linebacker Vince Williams in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, they most certainly didn’t envision him starting most of the season next to Lawrence Timmons.

Of course, plans can change on the fly, as it did when veteran Larry Foote was lost for the season on opening day. When the season ends, Williams will likely have played about 400 snaps in his rookie season—far more than could have been expected—while starting 11 games.

He was brought in as a heady player and a thumper in the run game, but who may be shaky in pass coverage, having been a two-down linebacker in college. Pittsburgh’s last game against the Green Bay Packers more or less supports that scouting report.

Williams played all of two snaps in the first quarter of the game with the Steelers choosing to start in their nickel, where they’ve taken to using Terence Garvin, or using their quarters defense. He played most of the second quarter, however, and the first play of the quarter supports the idea that he’s a better downhill player than when he’s asked to run backward.

It must be admitted that this is first and foremost a good offensive play by Matt Flynn, finding Jarrett Boykin between the underneath coverage of Williams and Cortez Allen’s coverage over the top. The issue with Williams here is that he exacerbated the problem after the catch by impeding Allen’s ability to make the tackle.

He was more in his comfort zone on the next player though when the Packers handed it off to Eddie Lacy. Here he does a good job of reading the blockers and staying on top of the play. When fullback John Kuhn took on Stevenson Sylvester, it left Williams one-on-one with Lacy, and he pulled the back down after a gain of one.

Later on the same drive, the Packers threw a bunch formation look on third and one. Williams appears to be expecting Troy Polamalu to be covering James Jones rather than jumping the shallow route. As a result, Williams was caught going forward and had to backpedal, but it was far too late.

Two plays later, Williams actually missed on a play that he’s made several times this year, blowing up a wide screen. He had a chance to drop Lacy for a loss here, though he only managed to gain one anyway, and it was a first and 20 play after a hold called on the play before.

After Le’Veon Bell fumbled, the Packers tried to get cute on offense, inserting nose tackle B.J. Raji at fullback. But thanks to Williams, that idea backfired.

Williams met Raji head on in the B Gap, took the brunt of the impact, bounced off, and tackled Lacy for a loss of two yards on what was first and goal from the three. The rookie linebacker was rightfully pumped after the play as Raji was left to put his hands in the air, either in protest of some imagined wrong or simply in disbelief over how the rookie embarrassed him despite his massive size advantage.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • r4kolb

    Hopefully his pass coverage skills will be something that is teachable. Though I’m guessing considering it was a deficiency in college it may be one of those “He is what he is.” There is a reason he went in the 6th round.

  • Virdin Barzey

    Going to be interesting to see if and when Spence comes back next year. I like Vince but as you stated he is what he is for now. Let see how long it takes him to learn to cover better

  • dgh57

    Well at least he seems to have his run defense down pat as(if I remember right) in the 2nd Bengals game he took on Peko in the hole and still made the tackle and now here with Raji. I noticed just before contact with Raji he turned his shoulder so he could get of the block sooner which was a smart move.

  • grw1960

    Does it make you wonder ,if the Steeler might look hard at a player like OLB Kyle Van Noy in the 1st 2 rounds of the 2014 draft to covert to ILB

  • mlc43

    He may never become the best in coverage, but, by next year, he should show significant improvement and become more than serviceable. It takes practice, practice and more practice to get comfortable in pass coverage.

  • Shea Fahr

    Very True.

  • cencalsteeler

    I was going to say hopefully he trains with Shaw in the offseason, but then I thought,…. Why don’t the Steelers hire Shaw?

  • Showboogie

    Williams reminds me of Levon Kirkland

  • Steve

    He sure does. Williams did a Great job on the Goal line D.

  • pittsburghjoe

    Spence is nothing more than a pipe dream right now packaged in a nice come back story we are all rooting for.

  • pittsburghjoe

    Ugg, this was sobering. The upside is that he is a rookie. I know its a long shot to get another late round gem. However, at bare minimum, this guy is serviceable and has good game management skills. By no means did they miss on this pick.

  • r4kolb

    Not for a 6th rounder that’s for sure.

  • alex

    wow, that bump and go get the ball with Raji was nice!

    as a rookie he got a load of play time…along with the youngsters on the team, lets take this lesson foward and grow, grow, grow…

  • Virdin Barzey

    Steelers generally don’t believe in pipe dreams. I can’t remember any player that faced a significant injury that we held on to this long.

    We have cut guys for less so there must be something there if they feel he’s worth it. We need a star/stud at that position and Vince right now is just okay. Its not like we have one in the wings waiting.

    If Spence is the star they seem to believe he can be, then I’m willing to give the kid a real shot. I did think Timmons was going to be all that and he has turned out pretty well.