It has been a theme for many years that, aside from the occasional special teams contributions, rookies on the Pittsburgh Steelers, including even first-round draft picks, rarely contribute during their first season. That has been especially true over the years on defense, though less so on offense.
That pattern changed somewhat in 2013 due to a variety of circumstances, both foreseen and unforeseen, as many rookies—even undrafted players—got a good chunk of playing time on both sides of the ball. Therefore, there’s more to go on than usual when speaking about how their rookie seasons went.
Player: Nick Williams
Draft Status: 7th round (223rd overall)
By no means did the Pittsburgh Steelers select defensive end Nick Williams in the seventh round with an eye toward getting production out of him in 2013. Williams picked up football late and attended a very small football program.
However, he possesses striking athleticism for a 3-4 defensive end and a level of intelligence indicating the potential to be molded into the position. Defensive line coach John Mitchell was equally as adamant about his physical potential as he was about the fact that he would not play in his first season.
Nor did he play as a rookie; in fact, he spent his first year in the league on injured reserve, though many have questioned the legitimacy of the move, given the seemingly minor severity of his injury.
Never the less, the move was actually beneficial for the Steelers, because it allowed them to keep fellow rookie defensive end Brian Arnfelt on the practice squad, rather than potentially being forced to make a choice between the two, or, alternatively, clogging up a roster spot with one or the other.
Williams did, in fact, battle injury throughout training camp, so he did indeed have issues keeping him off the field. He was limited to action in just one of the Steelers’ four preseason games, whereas Arnfelt logged 146 snaps.
In that one game, against the Washington Redskins, Williams played 22 of 59 defensive snaps. He made one solo and one assisted tackle, and he also secured himself a sack that was the result of a six-man rush and caused the quarterback to flee the pocket.
Williams is a big unknown heading into the 2014 season. Because he spent the year on injured reserve, he was unable to take any physical reps, though he surely would have been keeping up with the mental aspect of his development. Especially if there was something less than kosher about his move to injured reserve, this would have been something understood by him when the discussion to put him on IR took place.
Previous Articles In This Series
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – LB Jarvis Jones
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – RB Le’Veon Bell
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – WR Markus Wheaton
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – S Shamarko Thomas
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – QB Landry Jones
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – CB Terry Hawthorne
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – WR Justin Brown
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – ILB Vince Williams