What Vince Williams’ return means to the Steelers in 2021

The Steelers re-signed longtime linebacker, Vince Williams. Here’s what it could mean for Pittsburgh and their draft plans in 2021.

Just hours after it was announced that the Steelers had re-signed quarterback Joshua Dobbs to a one-year deal, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN took to social media declaring that veteran linebacker Vince Williams was on his way back as well. As a former sixth-round pick all the way back in 2013, there probably aren’t many that would have predicted that his career would have lasted twice as long as his first-round draftmate, Jarvis Jones, but here we are.

Throughout his impressive career, Williams has been a sledgehammer when coming downhill and finding a straight path to the quarterback on blitzes has been his calling card. Since becoming a full-time starter in 2017, Williams has put up 290 tackles, 37 tackles for a loss, and a whopping 18.0 sacks, according to Pro Football Reference. This is almost under of from the middle linebacker position – especially from one who hasn’t been an every-down player over his career.

What Williams’ return means for Steelers

Brining back Vince Williams doesn’t mean that the Steelers have zero need to add another inside linebacker, but it does give them some leeway in the 2021 NFL Draft. After visiting with some of the top linebacker prospects including Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Micah Parsons, it doesn’t appear that Pittsburgh will go this route in the draft this year after re-signing Williams.

However, we should have reasonable expectations for the veteran linebacker. Williams has never been much of a coverage guy and he ranked just 67th of 75 qualifying linebackers in this department last season with a grade of just 41.9, according to Pro Football Focus. Now 31 years old, Williams gives us even more reason to believe he will be a liability on passing downs.

Today’s game is much different than it was just a decade ago, and with so many teams passing the ball more than ever before, Williams will likely go back to playing a situational role for the Steelers in 2021. The speedy Devin Bush will be returning to the lineup this year, and he will no doubt help make up for some of Williams’ weaknesses.

In addition, Robert Spillane is set to return to the team on a one-year deal. Spillane proved to be a capable player when called upon last season, and he and Vince Williams could split snaps at Buck linebacker this year. Marcus Allen and Ulysees Gilbert will likely round out the depth at the linebacker position.

We still don’t know for sure how much of an effect the signing of Vince Williams will have on the Steelers draft plans this year, but one would have to assume that this addition could allow them to pass on selecting a linebacker early. Let’s hope he can return to form and give Pittsburgh what they are looking for in 2021.