Moving past the compensation side of things, Williamson is a fine player himself. He was a highly sought-after free agent in 2018 before signing with the Jets. In his lone full season, he recorded 120 tackles and proved to be an above-average player in coverage. While he is no stellar man coverage player, he does fine in a zone. Out of the options currently playing, he is probably the best linebacker in coverage (although it isn’t by a wide margin).
This means he can step in once he learns the playbook and see some snaps in nickel and dime defense. This will allow for Spillane and Williams to stay in on running downs and continue to excel at what they do best. Also, important to note, this deal came after the Steelers rush defense got cooked by the Ravens, so it could be insurance in case the inside linebackers aren’t aiding this defense.
The flexibility he brings as a player for this defense is a major win. Right now, he seems like a favorite to take over in obvious passing downs. This doesn’t mean either one of Spillane or Williams will suddenly ride the bench, but instead, those players will see more of a rotation to keep them in when it best suits them. None of the three will take over Bush’s full-time playing role, but the trio together can help cover up his loss.
Building off the last point, the Steelers suddenly have a really deep and capable inside linebacker depth chart. Spillane has been a pleasant surprise as a starter while Williams has reminded the NFL of how ferocious and physical, he can be as a player. Adding Williamson to this group gives them a slightly better overall linebacker and one that can cover slightly better. The reserves are more coverage of specific options that need to develop a little more before seeing the field regularly.
Even if the Steelers opt to just keep the group as is and have Williamson as a backup only, that group was majorly improved as a result. The compensation isn’t high, so while this result would be a little disappointing, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. More than likely, Williams makes his way onto this defense, and assuming he plays as he has with the Jets, he would be well worth the add.
It seems like this group is going to rely on a rotation, which isn’t a bad thing. This allows for each of the starters to see the field on downs that work the best with their strengths. Williamson doesn’t need to suddenly take over and play every down, he just needs to see the field on more passing downs while Williams and Spillane focus more on the rundowns. This group should be able to work together in rotation to make this defense even stouter.
On paper, there is little not to like about this move for the Steelers. The compensation was next to nothing, and the player the team got is a solid all-around player. Don’t expect any sudden benchings to get Williamson on the field, but instead a healthy rotation that allows each player to maximize what they do well at.