It would seem to me that inside linebacker Vince Williams has been pretty heavily criticized this season, the first in which he has entered the starting lineup for the Pittsburgh Steelers on a full-time basis. In his fifth season, he has stepped into the buck linebacker role since Lawrence Timmons left in free agency.
The Steelers have been moving him into something of a two-down player, as they often use their dime package on third downs if they are an obvious passing situation, with cornerback William Gay replacing him, though they haven’t done this nearly as much as they did in his rookie season when he had to start.
I have to admit that I haven’t really paid close attention to Williams on the field this year, because I honestly wasn’t worried about his ability to perform. He has gotten enough starts and played well enough in them that I didn’t think it would be an issue to plug the fifth-year veteran into the defense.
And frankly he didn’t seem to be much of a liability on Sunday against the Jaguars. He wasn’t even on the field for some of the worst plays, occurring on third down.
He had eight tackles and a sack on Sunday, nearly recording a second sack that Blake Bortles somehow managed to get a pass off from. That was the second time this season that Williams had a quarterback in the grasp on what under normal conditions would end up as a sack. As it is, he still has two on the season.
He also helped to break up a completion that would have gone for about 10 yards on an early pass, putting a hit on the tight end as he tried to catch the ball outside of his body, and causing it—the ball, not his body—to spill loose. Three of his tackles went down as run stops, including the first play of the game.
On the same drive on which he had a near-sack—and then helped end it with an actual sack, for a loss of 10 yards—he also blew up the running back, how was set up for a screen pass that could have had potential had Bortles thrown the ball more accurately. Or, of course, if Williams hadn’t read the play and crushed him. It would have gone for a loss of two or three yards.
Speaking of that sack, he did a great job of beating Leonard Fournette in pass protection. With the right tackle and right tackle both moving in opposite directions, there was a wide avenue leaving the two one-on-one against each other. Williams swam inside for the win, and has pretty consistently been doing well on the blitz.
The Jaguars went on to have success on the ground in the fourth quarter, but there wasn’t much Williams could have done on those plays—that is to say, he wasn’t to blame. A couple of early runs created lanes because he and Ryan Shazier swapped gaps, and Shazier overran the gap twice.