Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports
The Steelers were in a bind after inside linebacker Larry Foote went down with a season-ending biceps injury in Week 1. With nothing in terms of “experienced” depth on their roster at the position, the coaching staff has been forced to use a rotation of the recently-signed Kion Wilson and 2013 sixth round pick Vince Williams in Foote’s place.
Both players did not make us forget about Foote in the Steelers’ last game, and their inexperience led to them having issues defending the run against the Bengals. Despite their current issues, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau had some positive things to say about his inexperienced inside linebackers. In addition, LeBeau gave us some insight into where Wilson and Williams stand in terms of playing-time:
"They’re young players and they’re getting some on-the-job training. I think they’re both pretty equal players right now. One of them shows up and they want the full-time job, I’m sure that’s what Coach Tomlin will do."
It is nice to see that the competition is open for one of those two to win while the veteran is sidelined. While a rotation might be the best way to go early on, the Steelers need one of these players to step up and shoulder the load at Foote’s “buck” spot. Creating continuity and maintaining consistent play will be of the utmost importance over the coming weeks, and I will be interested to see if it is Wilson or Williams who can assume the starting gig.
Pressed against the salary cap, Pittsburgh’s brass might very well have to release the veteran Foote after this season ends. If Foote is released, then Williams and Wilson will once again be able to duel for the starting job and playing time in 2014 if a clear-cut starter cannot emerge.
Of course, that assumes the Steelers will not add anyone to the roster via the draft, and that Sean Spence will be unable to recover from his knee injury to compete for playing time as well.
For now however, I am extremely intrigued to see which one of these experienced players can shine and prove to the coaching staff that they can be a long-term answer on the inside for this team.
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