PITTSBURGH -- Rookie inside linebacker Vince Williams had six tackles last Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals despite playing only 29 snaps, and he made a key stop early in the game on a third-and-1 that forced a punt.
Williams has started most of the season at left inside linebacker for the injured Larry Foote, but his snaps have been limited because he usually comes off the field when the Steelers use their nickel or quarter defense.
A sixth-round pick whom the Steelers did not want to play this much so early in his career, Williams has nevertheless made an impression on coach Mike Tomlin.
“I like his demeanor,” Tomlin said. “I’m excited about where he’s capable of going. He has made some splash plays. He’s contributing in an increased fashion on special teams. All the things you’re looking for when you’re talking about a young guy.”
Here is a look at how the rest of the Steelers’ rookies fared in a 30-20 win over the Bengals:
Jarvis Jones, OLB: The first-round pick logged 67 snaps and played most of the way at right outside linebacker after LaMarr Woodley went down with a season-ending calf injury. Jones had only one tackle but he batted down a key two-point conversion pass late in the game. The former Georgia star has just one sack this season but Tomlin said Jones is starting to play faster, a strong indicator of the progress he has made in learning the defense.
Le'Veon Bell, RB: Bell rushed for just 57 yards on 22 carries, but he joined Franco Harris and Bam Morris as the only rookie running backs in franchise history to gain at least 1,000 yards from scrimmage. The Steelers continue to lean heavily on the second-round draft pick as he played 49 of 62 snaps against the Bengals and touched the ball on more than half of those (27).
Markus Wheaton, WR: The third-round pick continues to get most of his playing time on special teams. Wheaton played 16 snaps on special teams compared to just four on offense, and he did not have a pass thrown his way in the win over the Bengals. Wheaton has just six catches for 64 yards, and it’s clear the former Oregon State star is going to have to wait until next season to become a bigger part of the offense.
Shamarko Thomas, SS: Thomas, who had been playing in the quarter package before missing two games with a high-ankle sprain, has been reduced to a special-teams player. All 15 snaps that the fourth-round pick played against the Bengals came on special teams, and that is more a commentary on how well Will Allen has played at safety than anything else.
Landry Jones, QB: The Steelers’ second fourth-round pick last April has not suited up for a game this season. That is not surprising considering that Ben Roethlisberger has stayed healthy and played every snap this season.
Terence Garvin, LB: The undrafted free agent played eight snaps while replacing Williams in the Steelers’ nickel defense, and he also logged 18 snaps on special teams. He obliterated Bengals punter Kevin Huber with a block on Antonio Brown’s 67-yard punt return for a touchdown, one that will likely draw Garvin a fine for unnecessary roughness. Tomlin said Garvin’s play on special teams this season has earned him playing time on defense.
Brian Arnfelt, DE: Signed to the 53-man roster last Saturday, Arnfelt dressed against the Bengals and played two snaps on defense. The Northwestern product had been promoted from the practice squad to provide depth along the defensive line. He could be headed back to the practice squad with defensive end Brett Keisel and nose tackle Steve McLendon expected to play Sunday in Green Bay.