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Bills vs. Steelers: Stevenson Sylvester prepares to assume starting duties

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Vince Williams has been limited in practice all week - something that does not usually come before extensive playing time for a rookie on Mike Tomlin's teams. Stevenson Sylvester prepares for a starting job.

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

Rookie linebacker Vince Williams hasn't yet been able to practice this week due to a concussion he sustained in the Steelers' Week 9 loss to New England. Veteran Stevenson Sylvester has been taking snaps as the team's starter this week, but even he isn't sure whether that will be the way it goes Sunday.

"You never know until game time," Sylvester told Steelers.com writer Mike Prisuta. "They haven’t given me the nod or anything like that. They just have me taking reps and just getting ready to play if it’s necessary, which should be done every week so I’m just preparing like I do every week."

Or playing coy. It isn't exactly in the Steelers' favor to go beyond the rules for injury reporting and rule out a player who's not clearly out earlier than they have to.

If Williams, a rookie, hasn't practiced, history shows he's not going to start. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has been very insistent upon rookies getting practice time if they're going to play. Williams was limited Thursday, and that may not be enough to get him on the field.

As Sylvester said, though, he understands the drill.

He was once tagged as the possible replacement for James Farrior at the buck linebacker position. Injuries have held him back for the last few years, having been let go in restricted free agency, re-signed and cut again in training camp. Sylvester was re-signed to help bring some depth to the plagued inside linebacker group.

He's made one other career start, in 2011.

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