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Steelers

Vince Williams honors Ryan Shazier, will call Steelers' defensive plays Sunday

Joe Rutter
| Friday, Dec. 8, 2017, 2:45 p.m.
Steelers linebacker Vince Williams sacks Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton as T.J. Watt looks on in the fourth quarter Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers linebacker Vince Williams sacks Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton as T.J. Watt looks on in the fourth quarter Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.

Vince Williams was getting ready for the Steelers' first practice of the week Wednesday when he looked over at Ryan Shazier's vacant locker and saw the No. 50 yellow jersey hanging inside.

Williams slipped on the jersey that day, and he has worn it during practice the rest of the week.

It was a way for Williams to honor one of the closest friends on the team while Shazier remains hospitalized with a spinal cord injury.

“I didn't really make a big deal out of it,” Williams said Friday after the final practice of the week. “I didn't even think about it. Nobody even commented on it. I just seen it over there in his locker, and I just went and put it on.”

Williams also thought it was an appropriate gesture because of Shazier's role as the defensive quarterback.

“I knew I was going to be calling the signals,” Williams said. “I felt like they've seen 50 in front of the huddle for song long, it would be just familiar to everybody.”

Williams will have the headset inside his helmet and be the defensive play-caller Sunday night when the Steelers play the Baltimore Ravens with a chance to clinch the AFC North title. The game will be the first since Shazier's injury Monday night in Cincinnati and will conclude an emotional week for Williams and his teammates.

“I think it's going to be hard,” Williams said. “We lost Ryan. Ryan is a great guy. We just have to control those (emotions). It won't be the first time we've had to play without him in a minute.

“He did such a great job of playing and really coming back from the injuries he's had before. It's going to be difficult, but we have to do it. It's a big game.”

With Shazier out indefinitely, the Steelers will have to make do without their Pro Bowl inside linebacker, who had spinal stabilization surgery Wednesday night

“Everybody knows how much this game means to Ryan,” Williams said. “So I can't really say we're going to play for him, but I definitely think it's a little added incentive because we understand you can't take this for granted.

“It's a blessing to be able to play this game. At any moment, you can suffer an injury, so you can't take any play for granted. You can't take any game for granted. You just have to play as hard as you can while you have the ability to be able to.”

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jrutter@tribweb.com or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.

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