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By: John Walker

The track record of linebackers in the middle of a Pittsburgh Steelers defense is a mightily impressive one.

Of recent, they had an absolute superstar in Ryan Shazier from 2014-2017. Last season, Pittsburgh added a shiny new toy to the mix when they traded up in the 2020 NFL Draft to select Michigan star inside linebacker, Devin Bush. Bush faces the same expectations that were placed on Shazier when he was drafted. A highly touted first round pick with blazing speed who was set to be the centerpiece of an elite defense. However, both of these great players were/are flanked by another guy who is as solid and important as they come. He may be the unheralded of the pair, but why? You may find yourself asking the same question I have over and over through the years. Why don’t more people talk about Vince Williams?

The answer may be obvious. It may simply be because Vince Williams wasn’t a first round pick with sky high expectations and a ton of hype coming out of college. Williams was just a 6th round pick out of Florida State back in 2013 and has fought relentlessly to carve out his key role in Pittsburgh. Or perhaps it’s because Williams didn’t run a jaw dropping 40-yard dash time like his counterparts Shazier or Bush. And while that may certainly be the case, don’t get the truth confused. Vince Williams can PLAY. He brings a much needed and valuable old school nastiness right to the heart of one of the league’s best units.

After one season of a Mark Barron rotational experiment that didn’t pan out, Pittsburgh is once again handing the keys to Vince Williams to be a full-time contributor to the middle of their defense in 2020. Even in a role that saw a decrease in snaps in 2019, Williams still notched 55 total tackles and more importantly was one of the most successful players on the Steelers defense at getting after opposing quarterbacks. His 9 QB hits were good enough to put him 4th on the team in that category. Known primarily for his hard-hitting style and tremendous contributions in run support, the most under appreciated part of his game is definitely his ability to create serious pressure. He’s not the first name that comes to mind when talking about blitzing, but there hasn’t been a more effective inside linebacker when doing so in the entire NFL. In fact, over the last 3 seasons, there isn’t any off-the-ball linebacker in the entire league who has racked up more sacks than Vince Williams’ 15.

Although capable, he’s not the guy who the team will lean on in coverage, but that’s okay. Williams brings key components to the defense that other players simply cannot. He’s a throwback to bone crushing Steelers football. He’s a tone setter. Pittsburgh’s enforcer. He brings a much needed physicality to a defense based upon and loaded with speed and finesse. You win Super Bowls with hard nosed, blue collar, relentless players like 98.

So Steeler Nation, when gearing up for an even better defensive effort from the Steelers in 2020, make sure you show some love to one of the more crucial players that hasn’t gotten enough of the credit he has earned. Don’t forget about Vince Williams!


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