One of the areas of concern for the Pittsburgh Steelers heading into the 2013 NFL draft was inside linebacker. Linebacker Lawrence Timmons was coming off his best season, and fellow linebacker Larry Foote was coming off a statistical season few expected. But with Foote only back on a one-year contract and Timmons likely looking for a new deal very soon, the Steelers must be thinking of the future. The depth behind these starters is underwhelming at best, and doesn’t give a lot of hope, especially if one of the starters gets injured.
Going back to the draft, linebackers coach Kevin Butler hinted very heavily that he was pushing for the Steelers to draft Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown in the second round. It makes perfect sense, as Brown is the prototypical inside linebacker with his speed and explosion. But instead the Steelers chose to wait until the 6th round to draft something of a project player in Vince Williams from Florida State. Admittedly, I didn’t study Williams heavily prior to the draft, but I have had a chance to done so since, and the results aren’t great.
Williams has the look of a pure two-down run-stopping linebacker. He’s likely going to back up both inside linebacker spots for the Steelers, but I’m not sure he’s athletic enough to play either as a starter. I love his energy and I love his effort. But what I see with Williams is a player who was surrounded by talent on the FSU defense and that allowed him to make plays. That’s not to say he’s a good football player, because you don’t start 26 games at linebacker in two seasons for the Seminoles if you can’t play. I am hopeful that the Steelers coaches are able to put him inside and again by surrounding him with talent allow him to make plays, a lot like Foote did last year. This team can win with a player like that on the inside, but I have to wonder if they had passed on Michigan State running back Le’Veon Bell in the second round for Brown how much better this defense could be.