3 young linebackers who could replace Vince Williams for Steelers
By Tommy Jaggi
The Pittsburgh Steelers have another void to fill on defense after Vince Williams retired. Here are three young linebackers who could step up the plate in 2021.
In a somewhat surprising turn of events, Vince Williams becomes the latest Steelers veteran to hang up his cleats for good. Earlier in the offseason, the Steelers veteran leaders like Maurkice Pouncey and Vance McDonald to retirement, while many others left in free agency to join other clubs.
Williams was initially cut by Pittsburgh this offseason in an effort to create additional cap space before re-signing with the team. Now as Steelers training camp begins, the team is down one inside linebacker with his unexpected retirement.
Fortunately, there are several promising, young candidates who will be chomping at the bit for more playing time in 2021. Though Robert Spillane is expected to get an uptick in snaps this year, a few Steelers linebackers each bring a different element to the table. Here are three young players who could help replace Vince Williams for the Pittsburgh Steelers this season:
Ulysees Gilbert III
Ulysees Gilbert is a player who really flashed in his first two NFL preseasons. The former Akron star was known for his very good athletic traits and his ability to make plays on the ball – particularly in pass coverage. This is something that the Steelers were sorely lacking from their linebackers last season when Devin Bush went down with an ACL tear in just the fifth game of the year.
Gilbert really doesn’t play much of anything like Williams. He’s not necessarily a thumper coming downhill, and he struggles a bit more near the line of scrimmage. However, his ability to run sideline-to-sideline and run with running backs and tight ends in coverage is something this team could really use in 2021.
To be completely honest, Gilbert is probably a much better fit as Devin Bush’s backup at the ‘Mack’ linebacker position. However, he could certainly see the field on passing downs if the Steelers elect to use him in this capacity. The key will be staying healthy, as Gilbert has dressed for just 11 games in his first two seasons.