In mid-March, the Pittsburgh Steelers released inside linebacker Vince Williams in a cost-cutting move that saved the team $4 million on this year’s reduced salary cap. But according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Pittsburgh is now re-signing Williams, per sources.
The team confirmed the signing on Thursday, April 15.
According to Fowler, Williams had offers from other NFL clubs but wanted to remain with the Steelers, the only team he has played for since he was selected in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
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Williams Has Been a Productive Blitzer for Steelers
The former Florida State Seminole has appeared in 121 games (69 starts) through the first eight seasons in the league, while accumulating 479 total tackles, 50 tackles for loss, six fumble recoveries and two interceptions. More notably, Williams has always been a sneaky good blitzer, which explains how he has amassed 20.5 career sacks and 45 quarterback hits from his inside linebacker position.
His play didn’t show any signs of decline last year when he started 14 games and contributed 70 tackles (47 solo), with 14 tackles for loss, four quarterback hits, 3.0 sacks and a pair of fumble recoveries. The Steelers simply needed to create cap room for younger players like cornerback Cameron Sutton and offensive tackle Zach Banner, unrestricted free agents who were also signed to new deals this offseason.
Is Middle Linebacker Still a Need in the 2021 Draft?
With Williams back in the fold for at least another year, it would seem to lessen the need to select an inside linebacker in this year’s draft, at least in the early to middle rounds.
The Steelers also have former top-10 pick Devin Bush returning from the ACL tear he suffered last October against the Cleveland Browns, in addition to Robert “Front of the Plane” Spillane, who emerged last year in Bush’s absence and is back on a one-year contract.
There’s also safety-turned-inside linebacker Marcus Allen, an exclusive rights free agent who re-signed with the team in March, and Tegray Scales, who is on a one-year reserve/future contract with the team. The latter having initially been acquired in November 2020 after Williams was added to the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Last but not least, the Steelers also have linebacker and long snapper Christian Kuntz on a reserve/future contract for 2021. Kuntz spent parts of 2019 and 2020 with the Steelers, including a stint on the practice squad late last year.
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What About Outside Linebacker?
On the other hand, outside linebacker may still be a relatively high priority in the draft, as the Steelers are decidedly thin behind AP Defensive Player of the Year runner-up T.J. Watt and last year’s third-round pick, Alex Highsmith.