On Monday night longtime Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Vince Williams sent out a cryptic tweet that read: “I can hear the streets calling.”
It seems that Williams had already received the news that the Steelers were planning to terminate his contract, a move that the team announced on Tuesday afternoon via Steelers.com.
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Vince Williams’ Steelers Career
Williams, 31, has been a Steeler for the entirety of his professional career. He was a sixth-round pick of the team (No. 206 overall) in 2013.
During eight seasons in Pittsburgh, the former Florida State product played in 121 games with 69 starts, accumulating 479 total tackles (333 solo), with 50 tackles for loss, two interceptions and six fumble recoveries. He has always been an adept blitzer, responsible for a total of 20.5 sacks and 45 quarterback hits over the course of his career.
Notably, Williams wasn’t released because he can no longer play. He was still very effective in 2020, starting 14 games and contributing 70 tackles (47 solo), with three sacks, 14 tackles for loss, four quarterback hits and two fumble recoveries.
But the Steelers needed to shed salary to make cap room for younger players like cornerback Cameron Sutton and offensive tackle Zach Banner, both of whom the team re-signed within the past 24 hours.
Now the Steelers will turn to recently-resigned exclusive rights free agent Robert Spillane to fill Williams’ shoes. Last year, Spillane proved he’s more than capable of playing a significant role in Pittsburgh’s defense, which the team discovered after fellow inside linebacker Devin Bush suffered a torn ACL in Week 6 during a 38-7 win over the Cleveland Browns.
The team has also re-signed safety-turned-linebacker Marcus Allen, who might play a role in filling Williams’ shoes. The Steelers might also address the position in the latter half of the draft, as the team has more pressing needs on the offensive side of the ball, with running back arguably the No. 1 position of need, at least in terms of a starting role.
Salary Cap Savings?
By terminating Williams’ contract, the Steelers save the $4 million in salary he would have been owed on the last year of the extension he signed in 2018. According to overthecap.com, Williams will count for $3,031,668 in dead money on the team’s 2021 salary cap, adding to the dead money already trigged by the retirements of tight end Vance McDonald ($2,727,500) and center Maurkice Pouncey ($6,475,000).
But in the past 24 hours, the Steelers have also lost three other key pieces to last year’s defense, including cornerback Mike Hilton (Cincinnati Bengals), outside linebacker Bud Dupree (Tennessee Titans) and defensive tackle Tyson Alualu, the latter of whom is reportedly signing a two-year contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
To date there has been little news in terms of the possible destinations of other Steelers free agents, including wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, left tackle Alejandro Villanueva and No. 1 running back James Conner.
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