Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Surprises Abound for Williams Inside Linebacker Learns from Setback

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Surprises Abound for Williams Inside Linebacker Learns from Setback

Article excerpt

Vince Williams became a surprise starter as a rookie at inside linebacker in 2013, and then the Steelers had a surprise for him.

They drafted inside linebacker Ryan Shazier first in 2014 and immediately started him from day one next to Lawrence Timmons inside and shoved Williams aside.

"Yeah, man, it was actually pretty horrible," Williams said Tuesday, the first of a three-day minicamp that will end spring practices. "I can't say depressing, it wasn't that bad, but it was a little demoralizing, especially after I had a pretty solid rookie campaign."

But that is the way it goes in the NFL, where first-round draft picks get all the benefits of doubt.

Hines Ward discovered that in training camp in 2000 after tying for the team lead with 61 receptions in 1999. Coach Bill Cowher installed rookie first-round pick Plaxico Burress along with 1999 first-round pick Troy Edwards as his starting wide receivers. Ward, shunted to a backup role, took offense to that and eventually regained his starting job and put himself back on a likley Hall of Fame track.

More recently, coach Mike Tomlin started rookie first-round draft pick Jarvis Jones at right outside linebacker in the season opener ahead of Jason Worilds in 2013. Worilds ultimately played so well that they paid him nearly $10 million to play in 2014.

So, getting the cold shoulder because of a high draft pick does not necessarily keep a player such as Williams down. Even he offered another example.

"Ask James Harrison what he did. He was playing behind Joey Porter."

Porter, one of the best outside linebackers in team history, was cut by Tomlin in 2007 to make room for Harrison, who went on to NFL defensive player of the year one season later and an epic Super Bowl play.

Williams is not complaining, just saying. He and Sean Spence combined to take over Shazier's position last season because of injuries to the rookie. Spence started nine games and Williams, who started two, often replaced Spence in their dime passing defense.

After playing most of his career as the mack inside linebacker, Timmons moved between that and the buck last year and now will play the buck. …

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