With the Pittsburgh Steelers at their bye week halfway through the season, it is a great time to reflect on the first half. We will pick a group of players over the next two weeks and see whether or not they have met preseason expectations to date, and whether or not they can hit those expectations in the second half of the year. Today, we look at Vince Williams.
For the first time in his five-year career, Williams entered the season with plans to be an integral part of the defense. While Williams has made 17 starts coming into this year, he had typically be known as the person coming in for Ryan Shazier when he was injured. He also was known as the player with the huge special team’s hits. In an offseason in which Lawrence Timmons was due for an extension, the team extended Williams instead. After the 2016 season, the team let go of Timmons. This thrust Williams into the role of replacing a long time great Steeler, and leaving big shoes to fill.
Through Eight Weeks
From what Timmons was last season, the Steelers are not seeing a big drop off this year. Williams shows that he does his homework. He plays with some smarts, and typically is able to stay patient at the second level, find a way to keep lineman’s hands off of him, and find the right hole to pick when stopping the run. He has strong gap discipline, and does a good job clogging run lanes from the second level.
While Williams has been fine moving downhill, and laterally between the tackles, he still is a limited athlete. While he has four sacks, all four have come in one-on-one situations against rookie running backs. He beat Kareem Hunt twice, Dalvin Cook and Leonard Fournette. On plays moving outside of the tackles, he has had some issues. That is where he can get swallowed by blocks. It also gets him in trouble in coverage. He is not the best in coverage as it is, but getting him to move sideline to sideline, or forcing him to flip his hips over the middle will usually lead to simple completions.
Second half outlook
The Steelers have a designed role for Vince Williams. He is going to play on early downs and obvious run situations. The team is going to try to keep him in the box and moving north to south rather than east and west. It has worked so far, as Williams has hardly been a liability in that role, and it is argued that he has even thrived. His role should remain unchanged, and he should only begin to feel more comfortable in it. The ceiling is not extremely high, but he has yet to hit that ceiling yet and could approach it as he feels even more comfortable in his role moving forward.