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.