Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Convincing Performance a Rookie Is Starting at Linebacker This Season for the Steelers Defense, but the Big Surprise Is That It Is Vince Williams and Not Jarvis Jones, the Team's Top Pick

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Convincing Performance a Rookie Is Starting at Linebacker This Season for the Steelers Defense, but the Big Surprise Is That It Is Vince Williams and Not Jarvis Jones, the Team's Top Pick

Article excerpt

The Steelers hoped to have their first rookie linebacker start for them this season since Kendrell Bell did it 12 years ago, and they have.

It's just not their first-round pick, Jarvis Jones. Rather, Vince Williams, their second choice in the sixth round of the draft, No. 206 overall, starts at inside linebacker for them, and he's coming off one of his best games.

"He's doing a good job, he's getting better," said veteran linebacker Larry Foote. "I like the excitement and enthusiasm he plays with. You need that to be good in this league."

Foote not only is one of Williams' main boosters, but he also boosted him right into the job when his biceps blew out in the first game of the season. The Steelers first tried Kion Wilson at the buck position, but after two games they turned to Williams, and he has been there the past six.

That's more than Jones has started at outside linebacker. He started four games before they demoted him in favor of Jason Worilds.

Williams and the mack inside linebacker, Lawrence Timmons, earned high grades for their play last week in stopping the Buffalo Bills' seventh-ranked running game.

"Vince has been getting better every week," said defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. "I think he continued to grow. He might have been more visible [vs. the Bills] but to us, day-in and day- out, he's made progressive strides. I think that will continue to happen."

"I feel like I'm improving," Williams said. "But I feel improvement is necessary. I feel like I have a lot more to do."

Timmons wears the transmitter in his helmet to listen to the coaches call the defense. He then calls it out for his teammates, but Williams then sets the front alignment. Foote used to handle both jobs.

"He's more verbal, he's setting the defense, he's making a lot of the calls, helping Lawrence out big-time," Foote said,

The question next year will become, who gets that buck linebacker job -- Foote, or can Williams convince them to go younger?

"Hopefully, I can hold him off, come back next year, and he'll be my backup," said Foote. "But I'm just excited what he's doing. As a linebacker, you root for the young guys, you want them to play well. He's doing a good job for us."

Gay turns into starter

The return of William Gay to the Steelers in March was not greeted warmly by many fans. Fairly or not, Gay had become a scapegoat at cornerback even when he started for the No. 1 pass defense and overall defense in 2011, earned a Super Bowl ring by playing in their nickel defense and as part-time starter in 2008, and was wildly popular with his teammates.

Gay signed a two-year contract as an unrestricted free agent with the Arizona Cardinals last year after the Steelers made no move to re-sign him.

The Cardinals cut him after one season, and that's when defensive backs Ryan Clark and Ike Taylor went to work on coach Mike Tomlin.

"I texted coach Tomlin right away, are we trying to get Will? …

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