Vince Williams Expecting Big Things In Second Season

The Pittsburgh Steelers used a sixth-round compensatory pick on Vince Williams, a cerebral run-stuffing inside linebacker from FSU last season, surely not expecting much. I and many others surely had him pegged as a special teamer, or perhaps even a practice squad candidate in year one.

But he showed early promise even during rookie minicamps when he was reportedly helping his fellow rookies to understand their assignments. He then had one of the best preseason performances on the whole team and made the roster outright, even though he spent the season opener on the inactive list.

That wouldn’t happen again for the rest of the season, as Larry Foote suffered a season-ending and likely career-ending injury. Kion Wilson started the next two games, but Williams ended up playing most of the snaps, and he proceeded to start at inside linebacker next to fellow FSU alum Lawrence Timmons for the remainder of the year.

But he’s far from an entrenched starter, and he understands that’s the case. He spoke earlier with the team’s website about the offseason and how he’s approaching the upcoming season. His answer: there is no offseason.

“I don’t think there is an offseason. Once you get in it you realize if you want to be the kind of player you want to be, and be elite, you don’t have the opportunity to be off. I took advantage of having that time to know what I need to work on for the season and tried to get better in those areas”.

That’s an encouraging mindset in your second-year Buck linebacker if he is indeed to be relied upon to command the defense. He was asked to do so as a rookie last year, and though there were some hiccups, particularly in the beginning, he slowly gained control and began to earn the trust of his veteran teammates.

That is the issue of being in your first year out of college, regardless of what team you’re on. The Steelers’ defense may be notoriously difficult to learn, but understanding how to call any defense in your first year in the league is a challenge.

Which is why the transition from year one to year two is so crucial for Williams as he seeks to earn his starting spot on this defense on a full-time basis. He expects just as much out of himself in his second season as everybody else does.

“Last year when we came in we were rookies and thrust into it. Now we are understanding how it goes. It’s not like I am in a panic or rush. I can focus on my craft and get better.”

And he believes that there is major change, at least in the mental aspect of his game, from the beginning of last season to now, or even to the end of last season:

I feel like it’s light years difference, just the understanding I have from being under Coach LeBeau. Just my understanding of the 3-4 and my role in it is tremendous. Going back and watching film I think if I knew then what I know today…the plays I could have made. But watching film and going back through with the understanding you can see that you have grown so much.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • DoctorNoah

    Goal for the offseason – pass coverage. If you want to improve and not be a liability, make yourself a 3 down player

  • Jason Brant

    I was very pleased with Vince last season. Starting, as a rookie, in the Steelers’ defense is impressive enough without having it been at such a complex position.

    Of course, he wasn’t perfect, but anyone expecting that was fooling themselves. I hope he takes another big leap this year.

  • steeltown

    He should only improve. He was adequate last year and at times made some great plays, that goal line tackle on Eddie Lacy at the end of the year always comes to mind. Im looking for him to take the next step.


    “I don’t think there is an off-season.” He’s a keeper.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    I would love to see him better in pass coverage, but I am okay if that isn’t the next step. If he can become a dominant run stopper this year I would be really happy. That largest hole in our D last year was the big run of over 20 yards. They were game changers. That has to stop. If it does, I think we go from an okay run defense to top 5.

  • steeltown

    I also think McLendon will have a really good year, lets not forget last season was his first full time at the NT position. He too should only improve in his 2nd year as a starter.

  • dgh57

    We’ve had positive results from a couple a late round draft picks that I can think of who are cerebral type or smart football players in V. Williams and K. Beachum. This tells me that even if you’re a late round draft pick the mental part is just as big as the physical part(if not more)of the game and can take a guy a long ways. The best part is these guys are still young and will only get better as we move forward. I just hope we continue to find these type players in future years!

  • Reese Dare

    Don’t forget AB was a 6th rounder too!

  • cencalsteeler

    I agree totally Kenneth. But, part or most of that blame has to be on the secondary not coming up to help. As a free safety, as soon as you see it’s a run, it’s your job is to come in and help. That was nonexistent this last year. Hopefully, Mitchell comes in and contributes to stuffing the run and helps out the lbs.

  • dgh57

    Yes indeed, thanks for the reminder!

  • John C

    “I don’t think there is an offseason”, he is studying film to get better, refers to it as his “craft”……all very positive signs IMO…..I hope he rubs off on Jarvis!!!

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    To be honestly i’d much rather him being a better blitzer than a coverage MIKE LB. Pass-rushing is sorely missed and we need this aspect of defense to be greatly improved comparing to passing coverage.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    That’s a good thing to remember for everyone. There is always someone willing to work harder than you.

  • steelster

    Exactly, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the steelers pick Mosley or shazier with the first pick because they can play all 3 downs. The steelers love good lbs and may stick to that tradition.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    That’s what she said.

  • MC

    Really like this kid. He may have warts when it comes to dropping in coverage but he definitely has flashed his ability to hit and plug the hole when he gets his play recognition right.
    We need more physicality in the LB core and Vince brings that.

  • Paddy

    Hoping he can be Foote#2

  • Dewayne Braxton

    I think Williams will be better than Foote. But I have major questions about McLendon. Sure he was a first year starter but he was not a first year player. I saw nothing to suggest that he is going to get better. He knows the defense. He’s strong and quick. He had the benefit of spending several years learning from Casy and he was experienced. What else could a player need to solidify his job?

  • Dewayne Braxton

    Needs to be better than Foote-one of the most overrated players in Steeler’s history.

  • Dewayne Braxton

    I totally agree.

  • steeltown

    McLendon played well last year, 33tackles and 2FF is not too shabby for 3-4 NT who was used sparingly. Our run defense woes were not a product of McLendons play, that much has been documented. To be honest, most of the defensive struggles came when he was not on the field

  • Dewayne Braxton

    I read a review that said McLendon made most of his tackles after the ball carrier had already gained 3.5 yards. Contrary to what you’ve read, many writers believe he should be moved from NT to DE. NT is a noted position of need. In a 3-4, average NT talent will not work. On a good day, McLendon is average. Personally, I do not see much upside.