Vince Williams Could Settle Into Long-Term Role As A Reserve

Vince Williams was never supposed to be thrust into such a big role as a rookie, as we all know. The Pittsburgh Steelers knew that as well, which is why they routinely resorted to their dime defense to take him off the field.

That same line of thinking also brought them to the selection of Ryan Shazier in the first round of the past draft.

The truth is that, in all likelihood, Williams saw more playing time in his first season than he’ll likely see in any other—perhaps in all others in totality.

With Shazier already taking the first-team reps from the very beginning, and Lawrence Timmons still in his prime, Williams isn’t likely to see the field by design any time soon.

That isn’t even mentioning the fact that Sean Spence appears to be back up to speed after two seasons spent rehabilitating his knee. Spence, his second-team partner at inside linebacker, figures to be a greater asset on defense moving forward.

So where does that leave Williams as he enters his second season?

Perhaps he finds himself exactly in the position that he should have been from the beginning, and where he figures ultimately to settle in his career.

He is a Keyaron Fox-type player, a backup that you can rely upon if necessary to be in the right place at the right time, but ultimately not much more.

Perhaps he has a bit of a higher ceiling than Fox has, although that could greatly depend upon how he improves his ability to defend against the pass going forward.

Mind you, this is by no means an admonishment of Williams as a player, nor necessarily his performance during his rookie season, which was on an upward trajectory.

Nobody would deny that the Steelers were served as well as or better than could be expected from the rookie sixth-round pick once he took over the buck linebacker spot in the fourth game of the season and shared play-calling responsibilities.

And Williams certainly isn’t forfeiting anything on his end. As we’ve previously detailed, he’s gone over every snap of his rookie season striving to get better, and he’s not about to concede that he is fated to be a career backup.

“I could feel it getting better gradually”, he said about his rookie year. “It gave me a big boost coming into this year. Now I’ve been out there. I’ve had the feel against real NFL competition, so I feel like a lot of things are slowing down now”.

The reality is, however, that he’s not necessarily competing for a starting job at the moment. He’s competing for a roster spot.

Starting games last season has not earned him much seniority, and he will be battling a dense group of inside linebackers, such as Jordan Zumwalt and Terence Garvin, to keep his place on the team this season, even if he’s quite likely to win.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • 804Stiller

    The good this about this is our special teams should be really good this year. We just need one of the punters to work out.

  • Steelers12328882

    Deepest I can ever remember the ILB position being, but I don’t think there’s really a competition for the top 4 spots, as long as Sean Spence is able to play and backup the Mack. The only competition I see is for the 5th ILB, if they decide to keep one, which will probably come down to Zumwalt or Garvin.

  • steeltown

    Good solid young yet experienced depth with V.Williams behind Timmons

  • steeltown

    There have been yrs we carried 10LBs and I almost hope that happens this season. If we carry only 4OLBs (Worilds, Jones, Moats and So’oto/Carter) then I could actually see Garvin and Zumwalt both on roster as the #9 and #10, especially considering they should excel on special teams and somewhat have versatility (receive snaps at OLB)

  • Biggie

    I like Williams, very smart guy. He will give us solid depth inside, hopefully Spence makes it back all the way too and if so we are set at ILB 2 deep. Question will come down to who is our depth outside other than Moats and it may be coming down to our 8th spot from (Carter, Zumwalt, So’oto, Jones, Garvin), maybe we keep 9 but don’t see more than that as we may use extra spot on DL this year, especially if we’d bring back Keisel (Which is not out of the question at the moment). Versatility will be the key. Who can play outside, inside and what can they do on ST. Carter has to show me alot this year, if he doesn’t progress more and stand out, then next guy up to develop, he’s been here long enough he should be showing signs of being on the verge of contributing alot. Zumwalt, So’oto, Jones competition should be interesting. One of two could end up on PS if not stolen away.

  • Steelers12328882

    I could see that happening, but I wouldn’t mind them taking a chance on a 5th OLB considering the depth at ILB and adding Howard Jones to the mix of the So’oto and Carter competition.

  • steeltown


  • Jonas

    Yes, possible. Perhaps Zumwalt has some value at olb, too?

  • dgh57

    I think there’s no question that VW will be in a reserve role with the drafting of Shazier. If the plan is moving Timmons to the Buck LB position then I see VW now competing more against Timmons at that position and so in no way is he starting over Timmons. I like VW and consider him a smart guy and before the draft I was looking forward to seeing if he could show progress in his second year especially in the passing game. If VW can do that we’d be set at the Buck position.

  • dgh57

    Zumwalt’s only chance of making the roster is at OLB and it’s the PS for him if he can’t.


    I thought Williams came on as the year progressed…no, he’s not the athlete that Shazier is, but I thought he would be part of the base, with Shazier in a sub pkg…now it appears he will be a backup…9 LBs, 7 DLs is what I think they will do…maybe 8 DL if Brett is resigned and McCullers makes it.

  • cencalsteeler

    Could Williams up his stock and transition to a back up olb as well?

  • Regardless of who wins and loses out it’s going to be fun to keep up with this training camp

  • srdan

    If williams is your backup, you have good ILBs. Assuming he would improve over the next two seasons, he would be a solid starter option.

  • Riverstko

    I see Zumwalt as a good long term special teams player and maybe ST captain in the near future. He’s a baller i would love to see him make the roster.

  • dgh57

    It depends on how many LB we keep on the roster. Best thing to happen is if he does us all a favor and shines at OLB in the preseason enough to stamp Carter’s ticket out of town.