Will the second time be a charm for inside linebacker Avery Williamson in Denver? Williamson, a 2020 season rental for the Pittsburgh Steelers, spent a week on Denver’s practice squad earlier this year. He played 22 special teams snaps in two appearances with the Tennessee Titans before releasing him last week.
Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Williamson’s marketing agent, Alexander Aigen, announced his client re-signed with the Broncos on November 9. Though he was signed to the practice squad, with six linebackers on injured reserve (per Pro Football Network), Williamson could be activated to the 53-man roster for Denver’s November 14 matchup versus the Philadelphia Eagles.
Williamson split last season between the Jets and Steelers and missed the 2019 season for the Jets with a torn ACL.
After the Steelers lost Devin Bush one month into the 2020 season to a torn ACL, they were desperate for an experienced inside linebacker. It was a pleasant surprise when undrafted free agent Robert Spillane stepped up and filled in admirably for Bush, but the team didn’t feel comfortable with positional depth.
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At the November 2020 NFL trade deadline, the Steelers sent a 2021 fifth-round draft pick to the New York Jets in exchange for Williamson after they placed fellow inside linebacker Ulysees Gilbert III on injured reserve.
According to Pro Football Reference, in eight games (four starts) for Pittsburgh, Williamson registered 52 tackles and 1.0 sacks.
Special Teams for Life
In the four seasons since the Steelers selected Gilbert in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL draft, the linebacker has found himself on injured reserve three times: First, his rookie season with a lingering back injury, then twice in 2020 with back and ankle injuries. And while the Steelers could’ve easily cut ties with Gilbert — especially given the low dead cap money charge of his contract (per OverTheCap) — the team is confident he can play an important role.
That important role so far has come via special teams. With 15 key plays on 154 special teams snaps, including two tackles and two assistants, Pro Football Focus gives Gilbert a 72.7 grade.
PFF’s Highest-Graded Steelers
Pro Football Focus handed out its weekly grades for the highest-performing Steelers on November 10, and defensive tackle Cam Heyward leads the way at 92.4. Not far behind is EDGE rusher T.J. Watt, who is second in the NFL in sacks with 11.0.
Here’s how the top-five Steelers PFF grades shake out:
Third on the list is rookie tight end, Pat Freiermuth. A recent tweet from PFF College notes that Freiermuth and Atlanta Falcons’ Kyle Pitts are the NFL’s highest-graded rookie tight ends at 80.6 and 78.2. Freiermuth, selected No. 55 overall, has 245 yards and four scores on 27 receptions. Pitts went No. 4 overall and has logged 546 yards on 36 receptions and one touchdown.
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