In mid-March the Pittsburgh Steelers released inside linebacker Vince Williams in a cost-cutting move that saved the team $4 million on this year’s salary cap. But according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, Pittsburgh is now re-signing Williams, per sources. According to Fowler, Williams had offers from other NFL clubs but wanted to remain with the Steelers, the only team he has played for since he was selected in the sixth round of the 2013 draft.
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Vince Williams’ Steelers Career
During his first eight seasons in the league, the former Florida State Seminole appeared in 121 games (69 starts), and accumulated 479 total tackles, with 50 tackles for loss, two interceptions and six fumble recoveries. More notably, he has always been a sneaky good blitzer, which explains how he has amassed 20.5 career sacks and 45 quarterback hits from his inside linebacker position.
Nor did his play decline last year, when he started 14 games and contributed 70 tackles (47 solo), with 14 tackles for loss, three sacks, four quarterback hits and two fumble recoveries. The Steelers simply needed to create cap room for younger players like cornerback Cameron Sutton and offensive tackle Zach Banner, unrestricted free agents who were signed to new deals.
Is Middle Linebacker Still a Need in the 2021 Draft?
But with Williams back in the fold for at least another year, it would seem to lessen the need to select an inside linebacker in this year’s draft, at least in the early to middle rounds.
The Steelers also have former Top 10 pick Devin Bush returning from the ACL tear he suffered last October against the Browns, not to mention Robert ‘Front of the Plane’ Spillane, who emerged last year in Bush’s absence and is back on a one-year contract.
There’s also safety-turned-inside linebacker Marcus Allen, an exclusive rights free agent who re-signed with the team in March, as well as Tegray Scales, who is on a one-year Reserve/Future contract with the team, having initially been acquired in November 2020 after Williams was added to the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Last but not least, the Steelers also have linebacker/long snapper Christian Kuntz on a Reserve/Future contract for 2021. Kuntz spent parts of 2019 and 2020 with the Steelers, including a stint on the practice squad late last year.
What About Outside Linebacker?
On the other hand, outside linebacker may still be a relatively high priority in the draft, as the Steelers are decidedly thin behind AP Defensive Player of the Year runner-up T.J. Watt and last year’s third-round pick, Alex Highsmith.
The Steelers recently re-signed Cassius Marsh in an effort to add to the team’s depth at this position, this after losing Bud Dupree and Ola Adeniyi to the Tennessee Titans in free agency, with the former getting a five-year, $82.5 million contract.
To learn more about some of the top inside linebacker prospects available in the 2021 draft, see the NFL Draft Triple Take: Linebackers (Revisited), posted earlier today at Steelers.com and on YouTube.
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