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Friday, January 31, 2014
Steelers' draft rewind: Vince Williams

By Scott Brown

PITTSBURGH -- Here is the last in a series that takes a closer look at the Pittsburgh Steelers' most recent draft class with ESPN Insider and former NFL scout Matt Willamson providing his take on every player in it. I did not profile Landry Jones, the second of the Steelers’ two fourth-round picks, because he did not dress for a single game last season and again projects as the team’s No. 3 quarterback in 2014.

Vince Williams

Position: Linebacker

Drafted: Sixth round, 206th overall (taken one pick after Raiders defensive tackle Stacy McGee and one spot before Chiefs defensive end Mike Catapano).

Key stats: Williams recorded 53 tackles, eighth-most on the team.

His first season: No rookie provided more value for the Steelers than Williams, whom they took with the final pick in the sixth round. Thrust into the starting lineup a couple of games after left inside linebacker Larry Foote went down with a season-ending bicep injury in the opener, Williams made 11 starts and showed promise as a two-down linebacker.

Looking ahead: It is too early to tell whether Williams is a long-term starter at inside linebacker even though he played as well as the Steelers could have expected. The Florida State product made significant improvement stopping the run, but he also gave way to undrafted rookie Terence Garvin near the end of season on passing downs. Foote mentored Williams, and the Steelers would love if Williams can develop into a player of Foote's caliber, one whose forte is stopping the run and isn’t a liability in coverage. Williams could spend another season learning from Foote if the Steelers bring the 12th-year veteran back for one more season. At the very least the Steelers appear to have unearthed in Williams a player who can provide quality depth at inside linebacker and also contribute on special teams.

Williamson says: “Their defense is going to get shuffled up so much. They possibly could lose five or six starters with contract issues and age. I wonder if you just say, ‘OK, we like (Lawrence) Timmons a lot. Williams we like enough for you to be a two-down guy even though you weren’t great as a rookie, and we’ll use our picks on corners and defensive ends and another safety.’ I think ideally you’d love him to be your third inside linebacker. But I’m not sure they’ll have that luxury, and I can’t see them using a top two or three-round pick on an inside linebacker.”