Vince Williams The Heir Apparent At Buck Linebacker

If we have learned anything of importance so far during the new league year, it is that the Pittsburgh Steelers will have to get themselves a new starter at the buck linebacker position after 10-year veteran and former first-round draft pick Lawrence Timmons agreed to a two-year contract that was nearly fully guaranteed with the Dolphins.

While the team did aggressively pursue free agent Dont’a Hightower, it doesn’t appear that their bid was ever going to be enough to get the two-time Super Bowl champion to leave New England. The Jets offered more than either team, according to reports, but the 2012 first-round draft pick chose to stick with the familiar.

As of right now, the most obvious solution to the inside linebacker void is Vince Williams, the fifth-year player who passed up a chance at free agency this year after agreeing to a two-year contract extension last offseason, which gave the Steelers come insurance if they could not keep Timmons.

So what exactly are the Steelers getting with Williams in the lineup next to Ryan Shazier? In four starts last season filling in for Shazier, he recorded 35 of his 47 tackles on the season, adding two sacks as well—his first and second full sacks of his career.

The former sixth-round draft pick is one of the hardest-working players on the roster, taking his pointers from James Harrison in the weight room, for starters. In spite of the fact that he has never been a full-time starter, he is seemingly widely respected by his teammates, as though it were always understood that he was a starter in waiting.

You might recall seeing on Twitter soon after Timmons signed his deal with the Dolphins, team leading Cameron Heyward Tweeted about Williams being on deck and jokingly advising opposing offenses to “keep your head on a swivel”.

Williams is if nothing else a heavy hitter, a feature that comes in handy for his special teams contributions. But those responsibilities may have to be curtailed at least somewhat if he has to take on the task of being a full-time starter.

Nobody questions his abilities as an in the box player, in run support. He is able to shed blockers well and make plays near the line of scrimmage. He is able to get out on the perimeter chasing down ball carriers as well, delivering the big hit upon arrival.

The area of his game that is questioned is obviously his ability to hold up in coverage. In over 1000 career defensive snaps, Williams has only recorded one pass defensed—which he happened to deflect, allowing Timmons to make an athletic interception.

It would be foolish to deny this as an area of concern. You might recall that during the preseason when the Steelers were transitioning to more Cover 2, he struggled on multiple occasions to get to the right depth. But that doesn’t mean that he can’t be a quality starter. The Steelers may have a plan to limit his exposure as well.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • The Tony

    I don’t doubt that Williams will be a capable replacement for Timmons, however Williams does have his limitations. Asking Williams to drop in to coverage is going to be problematic. He has the ability to be a great down hill linebacker for two downs, but I worry that he is going to get exposed. I still am hoping that we bring in Zach Brown. There is no question to me that we are going to draft an inside linebacker in the draft. I know the yinzer crowd loves Matakevich, but the just is not going to happen. I wouldn’t mind having Williams be the starter especially if we start doing more sub packages and run the dime. If that’s the case then I am hoping that we draft Obi Melifonwu, With his size, speed and ability to cover and tackle, Obi is going to be a very nice addition. I think Melifonwu would step into Goldens role and can become an impact player fairly quickly. There is still a long way to go until the draft, hopefully we can get some more clarity before the draft happens. The less we need to draft for need, the better the draft will become for the Steelers.

  • Zarbor

    I like Vince alot but like everyone else, I’m not sure about his coverage skills. The fact that they were even considering Hightower tells me that coverage is not that important to them because Donat’a is not good in coverage either.

    It also concerns me that they were looking at Hightower since if signed Vince would have to take a backseat again. Tells me that they may not be that convinced of Vince being the starter. Wish they would sign Revis and draft a corner.

  • The Tony

    I don’t think looking into signing Hightower to start over Vince is a slight at Vince. Hightower is one of the top defensive players in the league. The Steelers were looking to make a smart football move to improve their team by signing Hightower. The money was too much for them to be comfortable with offering. I am still uneasy about signing Revis. I know he played overweight and wasn’t healthy and by reports he is healthy now and dropped the weight. His age is a concern for me as well at 31. Revis hasn’t been able to stay on the field and getting a little older isn’t going to help his health either. If he is willing to sign a one year deal for maybe 2 million, I would entertain the idea.

  • Michael James

    I think they’ll maybe look to add a safety-linebacker hybrid to replace Williams on third down. Someone like Obi Melifonwu. This would be a very good solution in my opinion.


    Matt…your head line should’ve read “Apparent” Buck LB…lol

    I’ve been saying for a long time, the weakness of the DEF is getting off the field on 3rd down. Timmons obviously doesn’t improve that so he was allowed to seek greener pastures. Of course VW doesn’t either. In my mock, I’ve place a high value on SS…(62,94) or a player that can be effective on 3rd down in coverage or as a blitzer and eventually move into the starting role.

  • RickM

    Thank you for the balanced view of Williams. Everyone, including me, loves his hard-hitting play, his ability to get to the passer when asked and his determination. He’s an underdog and a success story and I would love to see him become a regular starter. I just think there are some challenges that are downplayed because the rest of his play is liked so much. If this wasn’t a passing league (sometimes on any down) we wouldn’t be having this discussion. I don’t know what the Steelers’ plan is right now. You have to think it’s Vince as the starter because the draft is so unpredictable. They may have a different plan, but there’s no guarantee the guys they like to execute it will be available.

  • The Sun is Pro-Black

    Don’t forget hightower likely would have been used at olb too.

  • The Sun is Pro-Black

    I’m confident that vince will fill in nicely in this role and become another enforcer on this D.

  • Anton Smolka

    Unleash the beast!

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Project his starts and stats over a full season and he might produce 140 tackles along with 8 sacks and there would surely be some forced fumbles. That would be great and he is certainly capable. Imagine that. But it will never happen. Since it’s a passing league he is the logical candidate to come off in passing situations.

    This is why I did not want Hightower. Vince will play more against running teams and less against passing teams, usually coming off the field on passing situations. Therefore it is absolutely essential that they figure out who that will be, as he may get 500 snaps. A hybrid guy is very important. I trust Vince will be very good in his 500 snaps.

    Also, I want them to have a better nickel guy to guard the small quick WR, along with the hybrid guy to guard taller WRs or TEs.

  • Ike Evans

    Honestly…i dont think ILB is that much of a need..i believe in vw….i believe in dirty red