Don’t Give Up On Steelers DE Nick Williams Just Yet

With the 2014 NFL Draft still a couple months away, defensive end Nick Williams, the Pittsburgh Steelers seventh-round selection from just last year, seems to be a forgotten man after being forced to sit out his rookie season due to a subluxation of his left knee cap.

When going back over some of my notes from last year, I couldn’t help but marvel once again at Williams’ combine measurables and wonder if defensive line coach John Mitchell can eventually turn his project into a starter.

Last year at the combine, Williams, who measured in at over 6 foot, four inches and weighed 309 pounds, turned in a 4.94 40-yard dash time, according to NFL.com, with an unofficial 10-yard split of 1.63. Those numbers translated to an impressive, albeit irrelevant, 103.8 speed score.

Williams’ KEI rating (the sum of bench press reps, vertical jump and broad jump) of 70.25 was better than the ratings achieved by Ziggy Ansah, Datone Jones, Bjoern Werner and Sylvester Williams, all of whom were drafted last year in the first-round.

While you could see that Williams was athletic on tape during his final year at Samford, it was also easy to see he wasn’t technically sound. He often played too tall when lined up inside as a defensive tackle and lacked a solid base. While he showed that he was capable of using his 34 1/8″ arms and 10 1/4″ hands to create separation, he lacked consistency in that area.

NFL.com senior analyst and former Dallas Cowboys Vice President of Player Personnel, Gil Brandt, summed up Williams perfectly last year when he wrote, “Williams is a hard-working and athletic competitor. He’s still learning the game, but he’s got lots of upside and has a chance to be a good player.”

As far as comparisons go, Williams reminds you a lot of San Diego Chargers defensive end Kendall Reyes when you look at the measurables. Reyes has already registered 10.5 sacks in 32 games, however, while Williams has played all of 22 preseason snaps.

Reyes, like Williams, had to convert from defensive tackle to defensive end at the NFL level, but unlike Williams, he was a lot more technically sound and accomplished in college, and he faced much better competition to boot.

In case you’re curious, Reyes posted a 79.92 KEI rating back in 2012 to go along with a 98.27 speed score. In addition, he only has 33 1/4″ arms and 9 1/2″ hands.

I’m not suggesting that Mitchell will be able to turn Williams into Reyes, mind you, but I also think it’s way too early to throw the young defensive end out with the bath water. After all, Brett Keisel, who was also drafted by the Steelers in the seventh-round, turned out just fine and he didn’t start a game until his fifth year in the league. He registered a 68.42 KEI rating at the 2002 combine to go along with a 97.59 speed score.

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • blackandgoldBullion

    Arnfelt, Al Woods and Williams….. between them, I hope there is a starter. I would actually throw Arnfelt in there more often because he looks so strong and maniacal. I would take the risk/reward in that he will make some obvious mistakes, yet he will also make some huge plays and potential help cause some Turnovers.

    Turnovers! Remember those? Remember when the Steelers lead the league? We are so missing Harrison in his prime. Also, we are missing the days that a great LB would leave in FA and the next man up was just as good or better. I am optimistic the good old days will return, but I have the patience to wait a little while.

    Let the young guys play and they will get there sooner.

  • Steelers12328882

    Good old days? Jason Worilds stepped up last year and did it.

  • steeltown

    I have in no way given up on Nicholas Williams, I love having him and Arnfelt in the mix. Both of these kids have potential but for one reason or the other were overlooked in the draft..could end up being good for us. Time will tell.

  • Luke Shabro

    I’m a huge Arnfelt fan and I was hoping to see more of Williams, if even on the practice squad, before his knee injury. If they can get anything out of these guys in the next couple years it’s a huge advantage.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    I agree but I think Al Woods needs to be signed as he seems like a good candidate as a role player at a decent price. Hood is steady, but will he come cheaply, because I do not want them to spend too much for him. Woods also has the potential to be solid as they await one of the younger guys stepping up.

  • DMA42

    I still think that drafting a NT early on would solve so many problems. I thought that McClendon played a pretty descent NT last season, as did Al Woods, but neither of them are true NT’s. Plus McClendon is a natural DE and would excel if he were moved back there IMO. Let’s say, hypothetically, that we Colbert and company see something in him and draft Louis Nix in the 1st round.

    That would leave us with:
    NT: Louis Nix, Hebron Fangupo, Steve McClendon/Al Woods
    DE: Cam Heyward, Steve McClendon/Al Woods, Kiesel/Hood (one resigned), Brian Arnfelt/Nick Williams (one going to the PS)

    That gives us mucho depth and mucho competition, exactly what this team needs on a thin & depleted defensive line.

    And just to clarify, that draft scenario is hypothetical. Personally, there are numerous guys I’d take over Nix. Eric Ebron, Mike Evans, Aaron Donald (huge bias here), CJ Moseley, Darquez Dennard, and Dix/Pryor just to name a few, but it doesn’t take from the fact that this team needs a NT, and has needed one for a while.

  • DMA42

    What can y’all tell me about Arnfelt other that what a google search warrants? Does Dave have anything about him on the site? I’m just curious because there’s little information on him, thanks.

  • steeltown

    Yea Woods could be the next Hoke (versatile backup)

  • Callentown

    Unfortunately, because of his injury, we have almost no information about him one year later. Same goes for Embernasty.

    Those two players were ones I was watching and hoped would add something to the team – while being 7th and undrafted – which could have been a boon for this team!

    I can’t help but be disappointed with the rate players are injured on the Steelers. I know it’s the NFL and injuries occur. Spence’s injury was at least in game play.

    Seems like something that could be prevented in training.

  • Bill Sechrengost

    Thankfully, we don’t have to use a high draft pick to get a good DL for the future. There are quite a few big, tall DE’s that can be had in rounds 3 to 5. John Mitchell can mold them into a Steelers kind of DE who can be here for years to come.

  • Axe Skot

    I think the better adjective is inexperienced. I would hardly characterize this line as depleted. One of my main arguments for not drafting Nix is that the DL as a whole is one of the deepest areas on the team and really, outside of quarterback, the one I worry the least about. Every other position on this team except for QB has some legitimate question marks either because of lack of depth or contract issues. Hood is a question mark but at the least, Kiesel most certainly could be had for another year for a modest fee.

  • PA2AK

    Something that surprised me was when I saw LeBeau make the statement that the more athletic type of NT (i.e. McLendon) is actually ideal for his preference in a 3-4 NT. I don’t agree with it…but maybe if we give McLendon some more time with folks that aren’t rookies behind him and Heyward next to him…maybe he turns into something serious. Considering certain stats…McLendon was up there in effectiveness against the runs up the middle.

  • PA2AK

    I think Nix would be a very bad move….I like the way he’s handled things at the combine too. I’m fine with McLendon being there, especially with a year of quality time under his belt.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    Based on the interviews, either we have no plans on resigning Hood, or they aren’t happy with some of these guys. Heyward, Woods, Hood, McLendon, Arnfelt, and Williams is a good group of 6.

  • James Kling

    Question: what is the formula for the speed score? Is there a meaningful threshold (cf. KEI > 70)?

  • alex

    young up and comers to form the future, yeah man, i believe!

  • Douglas Andrews

    I like the depth we have with our younger potential at DL. Arnfelt Woods and Williams theres potentially 1-2 starters. Williams looked pretty good in preseason so i’m looking for improvement this year. Just curious Dave When Coach Mitchell says there gonna teach them the Steelers way what exactly does he mean?

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    Can hood be traded

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    Can hood be trade bait

  • dgh57

    HaHa yeah sure, but the fish may not bite with the bait you’re using! :-)

  • sean mcmartin

    Good old days is right. They had pro-bowl talent and were always a threat to win the SB. your watching the wrong team if you think worilds steping up for half a season on a contract year even remotely compares to some of the best LB corps they had..

  • Matt Manzo

    Williams is the reason we won’t take DL til the 6th round!

  • Steelers12328882

    I’m watching the same team ‘YOU’RE’ watching. I happen to think Worilds IS pro-bowl talent. He’ll certainly be paid like he is, and no one can tell the future, so maybe he goes on to have a career that compares to other great Steeler linebackers. Have some hope.

  • Matt Manzo

    I think Dave did a profile/review of him last week? We all pretty much love his energy and potential but haven’t seen anything that supplants our beliefs. Another player that we saw something’s from in the preseason but didn’t play a snap til the 2nd to the last week.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I am with you…unless a guy that is of great value is available to us I just do not see it. We will be able to keep either Hood or Keisel for a good price.

  • tim

    Nix…..is NOT….a good NT…..look at his tape..he doesn’t know how to take a double team ( lol) at all, he gets knocked off his feet every time, id rather try Hageman there, hes going to be better than that ham n egger Nix…

  • WIINGY

    Can Arnfelt be any worse than Chris Carter?

  • WIINGY

    No he’s a Free Agent. His best bet is signing cheap for a 4-3 team.

  • WIINGY

    he’s not coming back.

  • WIINGY

    They sure did meet with a lot of DE at the combine.

  • Matt Manzo

    I think it depends how the 1st 3 rounds go. If we get a CB, S and OLB we could go DE in 4. With a trade back in one we could go DE with our comp 3rd. If there’s someone worthy? It’s another spot where depth is ok but a bad ass would be welcome.

  • 86n96

    considering they play different positions, then no. is ike taylor any worse than cam heyward?

  • WIINGY

    I was thinking of Baxter. And Ike is a lot worse than heyward to answer your douchy question.