Ex-Steelers LB Says He ‘Fell Into a Deep Depression’ After Retirement

Mike Tomlin with Vince Williams

Norm Hall/Getty Images Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers talks with Vince Williams at the end of the first half of a game against the Arizona Cardinals on December 8, 2019.

When former Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Vince Williams announced his retirement on July 21, 2021, the news came as something of a surprise. After all, he had signed a one-year contract with the Steelers less than two months earlier, recommitting to the organization after the team terminated his previous contract in March 2021 in order to save $4 million against the salary cap.

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Vince Williams: The ‘Huge Pay Cut … Took All the Air out of My Sails’

On June 27, 2022, Williams appeared on The Arthur Moats Experience podcast and explained why he decided to retire, as opposed to continuing his NFL career for one more season.

“Essentially, I became a cap casualty,” Williams told his former teammate, admitting that he “explored some free agent options” before deciding that he didn’t want to play for any other organization.

But when he returned to the team things weren’t the same.

“You know taking a huge pay cut (from a $4 million salary to $1.22 million) really took all the air out of my sails. It really just felt like I was obsolete, so when I came back into the building, I didn’t see where I fit, I didn’t see where I belonged,” he added, having already admitted that he was feeling his age after eight seasons in the league — not to mention still trying to recover from a torn quad he had suffered in the 2020 regular-season finale against the Cleveland Browns.

But even though Williams chose to retire, he struggled to adapt to life without football.

“I am not going to lie to you, Moats, I fell into a deep depression,” he continued. “Mostly because I felt like I was still the most talented and productive middle linebacker on the team…. I had this sense of uselessness, like I’m not useful no more. My entire life I’ve been a football player, I’ve had a role for me and now there’s no role for me. I was lost.”

A Future in Coaching?

Williams went on to admit that he sometimes still feels lost.

“I wouldn’t sit here and tell you guys that I’m ‘out of it,’” he continued. “Some days I still have an identity crisis.”

But Williams does have the beginnings of a new direction in life. In May 2022, he agreed to become the linebackers coach at Pine-Richland High School, in Gibsonia, Pa.

Williams went on to note that people have “hit him up” from every level of coaching — high school, college, XFL, USFL and the NFL — and now he’s exploring his options.

“I just want to sit back and I don’t really want to rush into anything because I know the type of person I am. I’m an extremely committed individual. When I give somebody my time, they have my time. So, I’m really trying to focus on what I truly want this next step to be before I proceed,” he concluded.

Williams has time to figure things out, having earned more than $22 million over the course of his career with the Steelers, which got underway after Pittsburgh made him a sixth-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft out of Florida State.

During eight seasons in the NFL, Williams appeared in 121 games (69 starts) and was credited with 479 tackles, including 50 tackles for loss, 20.5 sacks, 45 quarterback hits, two interceptions and six fumble recoveries.

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