We never got a chance to hear much from Pittsburgh Steelers rookie defensive end Nick Williams since his season-ending knee subluxation late in the preseason. In fact, we never got a chance to hear much from him before the knee injury, either, despite how glowingly defensive line coach John Mitchell spoke about his physical potential.
That is what got him drafted in the seventh round last season, despite coming in to the sport late and being very raw technically, having had very little playing experience in a small school not known for producing NFL talent.
Perhaps that is why some were led to speculate that the injury that Williams suffered was a minor one simply used as an excuse to place him on injured reserve rather than use a practice squad slot on him, knowing that he wouldn’t be a contributor in his rookie season, at the expense of somebody else, like Brian Arnfelt.
Apparently, however, the injury was actually quite serious; in fact, he’s in the tail end of the full recovery period from the injury now, which happened late in the preseason during a scrimmage. Williams described how it happened.
“I was rushing the passer and one of the linebackers was blitzing and the offensive lineman pushed him into my knee”, he said. “My knee was extended. It hit my knee and it subluxed. It was pretty painful. When I fell to the ground I knew it was pretty serious”.
Even though this happened toward the middle of August, Williams had to wait until the end of October to even have surgery on the knee, because he had to gain more motion in the knee before the surgery could be done.
That delayed his recovery period, and he remained on crutches post-surgery until the middle of January. He couldn’t bend his knee for a few weeks after the surgery, and had to have his father drive him around in the meantime.
A full recovery from a knee subluxation is put at four to six months. The end of October would put the far side of the timeline at the end of April, so Williams should be getting close to normality shortly.
But getting back on the field is just the first step in the process of making the team and actually contributing on defense. More realistic, given his athleticism, would be to make the roster on special teams this season as a seventh lineman to start.
While he may be at a disadvantage in taking physical reps, however, he’s been in the classroom studying the playbook and reviewing game film. While he might not have much of his own tape to break down yet, that time will come, and the time spent in the classroom will help give him an edge that he didn’t have last season.
Williams plans to be ready to do some work during the OTAs that begin next month, but there are still many checkpoints to clear before that can happen. As much as I look forward to being able to see him play again, I’m sure his anticipation in retaking the field is far greater.