LB Vince Williams on re-signing: 'I want to die a Pittsburgh Steeler'
The issue of entering the final year of his contract and whether he will get an extension is something Vince Williams insists he does not ponder.
“I don’t think about it at all,” the inside linebacker said.
But that doesn’t mean that after six years in Pittsburgh, he doesn’t have a preference about his next NFL deal.
“I want to die a Pittsburgh Steeler.”
Those were the final words Williams uttered as he finished a three-minute session with media outside the dining hall at Saint Vincent late Sunday morning. Those three minutes included 18 questions, a sign of how few words Williams spoke as he dutifully answered each inquiry.
It was the first group interview for Williams since reporting day for camp Wednesday. He showed up in full-on “Stone Cold Steve Austin” mode and posted to his verified Twitter account that his interviews this season would be “very limited.”
“We talked too much last year; it’s walking time,” Williams wrote.
He played the role Sunday, when most of Williams’ answers were short.
On what he wants to accomplish this season: “Got to stop the run better.”
On how that can be accomplished: “Being more technically sound, being more gap sound.”
On the new acquisition in his inside linebackers room, Jon Bostic: “Bostic’s cool.”
On if it was nice to have injured teammate and friend Ryan Shazier so involved with the team this camp: “Yeah, it’s cool.”
On if his previous contract extension , of two extra years signed late in the 2016 preseason, came as a surprise: “Naw, I knew it was coming.”
On if he’s aware of any current contract-extension talks with the Steelers: “No.”
Williams is the only currently healthy offensive or defensive Steelers starter in camp and scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this spring — and therefore a candidate for a contract extension at the moment. (Guard Ramon Foster suffered a knee injury Saturday, Jesse James is jockeying with Vance McDonald for the No. 1 tight end job and Le’Veon Bell will play 2018 on the franchise-player tag).
A sixth-round pick in 2013, Williams was entering the final year of his deal in the summer of 2016 when he signed what effectively was a two-year extension for $5.5 million.
In a sense, Williams has outplayed that contract, serving as a reliable starter last season after the departure of Lawrence Timmons in free agency. He was second on the team in sacks with eight (a high number for an inside linebacker) and tied for second on the team in tackles.
And with serious questions about Shazier’s football future after his spinal injury suffered in December, Williams is the only proven commodity the Steelers have at inside linebacker. Bostic, a journeyman, and former seventh-round pick Tyler Matakevich (zero career starts) are competing to see who will start next to Williams.
Since he will turn 29 by the time the season ends and is in his sixth season with the Steelers, does Williams see himself as a leader?
“Probably,” Williams said, citing that only end Cameron Heyward has been with the Steelers longer among defensive players. “So I would think so.
“I feel like everybody can be a leader; you don’t have to be an old guy to be a leader. It’s sort of like being a leader is an attitude. It’s not how long you have been here; it’s about what you have and your contributions to the team.”
One of the more promising unknown inside linebackers on the Steelers’ camp roster, Keith Kelsey, said Williams (along with Shazier) were whom he leaned on as a practice-squad player last season in regards to learning the Steelers’ defense.
“And especially this year, Vince has really taken that leadership role over in our (position) room,” Kelsey said. “And we are just following behind him.”
The Steelers value Williams’ attitude and intangibles, and with few other options at inside linebacker he certainly is a candidate for a third contract with the team.
Therefore giving Williams a chance to die happy.
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.