First things first: I want the players that consistently put the Steelers in the best position to win to play the most. That being said, I can’t think of a player on the 2017 roster I’m rooting for more than linebacker Vince Williams.
As training camp has arrived, the development of Vince Williams will be a story I’ll be keeping my eyes on. Williams most likely won’t have to compete for his starting role, but I’ll be keen to see how comfortable he looks taking most of the reps at his position. I have several reasons for pulling for Vince this year, and I’ll outline them below.
1. He’s worked his way up
Williams was drafted in the sixth round of the 2013 draft. Since that time, he has filled in primarily as a special team’s player and an injury replacement for Larry Foote and Lawrence Timmons. It’s not easy for most 6th round picks to make an NFL roster, let alone stick around for four years. Williams however displayed the work ethic to build himself into a reliable special team’s contributor and earned a new contract in 2016.
2. His Reaction to The Steelers’ Pursuit of Dont’a Hightower
It seems forever ago and may be forgotten by some fans at this point, but early in the offseason the Steelers were in hot pursuit of Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower. Hightower has a proven track record at inside linebacker and would have been a nice consolation prize after letting Lawrence Timmons walk in free agency. Ultimately Hightower ended up resigning with the Patriots. In May, Williams spoke with Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about the Steelers’ offseason rumors:
“Do I notice it? You can’t not notice it,” Williams said. “You guys do a great job putting that stuff everywhere. But do I pay attention to it? No. No matter what happens you still have to come here, put your hand in the pile and contribute no matter what position you play and no matter what your role is. You can’t let it shake you or faze you.
“I’m humbled really, because we had opportunities to get some linebackers in free agency. We had an opportunity to draft a first-round linebacker, and we didn’t. It shows the organization has a lot of confidence in me, and that’s the first time I ever felt that way.”
Those quotes from Williams illustrate a consummate team player. No sour grapes about the rumors, if the Steelers had signed or drafted a linebacker Williams was ready to resume his backup role and work hard to play at the best of his ability. The fact that didn’t get a new linebacker gives Williams a sense of confidence that he can get the job done. Hopefully that confidence will help Williams’ play on the field and motivate him to show the Steelers’ brass they made the right call.
3. He’s A Good Player
Granted Williams has been limited to a spot starter, but he’s made the most of those opportunities and showcased some real skill. Nathaniel Bodnar did a Film Room article on Williams back in March which you can see here.
In that one game against the Jets Williams displayed a knack for reading the play quickly and getting to the right place to make a play. Lest you think that the one game against a truly dreadful Jets game is too much to get excited about, Williams also played well the previous week against the Steelers’ eventual divisional playoff opponent the Kansas City Chiefs, notching 16 tackles.
4. He’s Funny on Twitter
This is a bit of a personal pet peeve of mine, but for as many athletes that have a social media account, very few of them are actually interesting to follow. Williams however is a constant source of entertainment on the platform. A guy that’s able to show a sense of humor makes him a bit easier to root for in my opinion. As evidence, there’s the video below when he comments on the reasons Antonio Brown will need to build up his arms after his new contract (NSFW language).
And the infamous tweet that landed him on the news after he commented on the passing of Harambe the Gorilla from the Cincinnati zoo. He deleted the tweet but this article has the screenshot. You can follow Williams @Vinnyvidivici98.