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Is it time for the Steelers to bench Vince Williams?

With L.J. Fort shining in Vince Williams’ absence, it’s time to think about giving Fort starting time

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Vince Williams was just awarded a new contract before the start of this season, and he was the obvious starting ILB heading into the preseason. Jon Bostic was the one who was thought to be on the hot seat at ILB, but with Bostic playing at a high level, there’s no way you can sit him without the defense taking a huge hit in the middle.

Unfortunately for Williams, he’s been average at best — but on passing downs, he’s been particularly suspect. The Steelers love to run single-high Cover 3 and Cover 2 Man. Unfortunately for Williams, he’s the person offenses attack constantly. It’s a huge reason why slot receivers and tight ends have been having huge games against the Steelers. Williams has been at the center of lackluster play too. He’s looked lost and even more so, he’s missed tackles.

Missed tackles such as this really worry me. It seems to be a fitting summation of his season so far, but merely reaching out an arm and not wrapping up isn’t going to cut it at all. Vince Williams hasn’t been good vs. the run and this fact causes some worry about the state of the ILBs with him on the field.

Williams also has seemed lost at times, sometimes doing little to nothing on a play at all. I’m not sure what he’s doing sometimes but, as the main communicator on defense, he has to be on top of his assignments and follow through.

For example, what in the world is he doing here? It is as if he is deciding between blitzing and dropping back into a zone, but he’s a complete non-factor here. If he was supposed to be in a zone, then this easy slant completion can be put partially on his shoulders. It’s plays like this that make you question what in the world he’s doing this season.

He missed the game against the Falcons and L.J. Fort filled in for him, making a world of difference in the defense. Finally, running backs were not gashing the Steelers and you could see athleticism in the middle of the field. While tight ends were somewhat of an issue, the Steelers shut down every other aspect of the Falcons’ offensive attack. To the point about tight ends, Fort had one extremely rough play that stood out to me, and it was his worst play of the day.

The coverage isn’t terrible here. It’s a zone and Fort is seemingly right there, so credit to the Falcons for attacking that weakness in the zone. But this is a pretty bad miss by Fort who gets spun right around and then lets Hooper head upfield for another 10 yards after the catch. Luckily, this was only a one-time occurrence with Fort and he provided some other flashes of great plays to compensate.

First up, from the Baltimore game, these are two great reps from Fort. The nice rip inside to get the tackle and then the athletic sideline-to-sideline speed to finish the second play are why he’s such a difference maker in the middle. He’s a play-maker that they simply didn’t have in previous games.

Vince Williams is a great blitzer in stunts schemed for him, but Fort arguably did it better against the Falcons.

I love how Fort is absolutely flying in there like a bullet. Great scheming by Keith Butler too. This is the type of play that can quite literally change a game, and it was no doubt important to stopping Atlanta’s drive. No matter how fast you get the ball out, Fort at least is getting a hit on Ryan, and his burst is so valuable to any team in the middle of the field.

Simply put, this team needs quickness and play-making ability in the middle of the field. L.J. Fort gives the Steelers that, and so does Matthew Thomas. Williams has a contract, and is being paid now, but if I’m aspiring to a Super Bowl win, then I’m playing Fort over Williams. He and Jon Bostic are the best duo inside for the Steelers right now.

Unfortunately, I think it’s time to bench Vince Williams.