Updated: Apr 14
(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever. Vince Williams' eight-year career with the Steelers came to an end on Tuesday when the team cut him as a cap casualty to save $4 million in cap space.
The Steelers were up against the salary cap and Williams just so happened to get the short end of the stick. In any other year, Williams would have remained on the Steelers, but with the cap going down almost $16 million because of the revenue lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Steelers and many other teams had to make tough business decisions.
Williams indicated that he was on his way out of Pittsburgh on Monday night when he tweeted, "I can hear the streets calling."
Williams started 69 of 121 games with the Steelers since being drafted in the sixth-round in 2013 out of Florida State. In his eight years with the Steelers, Williams recorded 479 total tackles, 333 of them being solos, 50 tackles for losses, 20.5 sacks, 45 quarterback hits, five fumble recoveries, five passes defended and two interceptions, one of which was a pick-six.
Williams was one of the leaders in the locker room and will surely be missed on and off the field. He was a well-respected veteran and one of Mike Tomlin's favorites. He was an elite blitzer and was a nightmare for running backs to block when they were in pass protection. He also was great against the run and had a career-high 14 tackles for a loss last season.
Williams told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN on Tuesday that his release has been in the works for a few days. Williams said he has a lot of football left and is eager to provide veteran leadership and play for a team that needs it.
Williams would be an asset to any team out there. He got a lot of flak in Pittsburgh for not being a coverage linebacker, but that was never his calling card. He is a blue-collar, no-nonsense, grinder of a linebacker. Williams was a pure throwback and would have been an every-down linebacker had he played in the 1990s.
Williams was a long shot to make it as a sixth-round pick by the Steelers in the 2013 NFL Draft. Not many players drafted at 206th overall make it one year in the NFL, and Williams played eight seasons in Pittsburgh and was a starter the last four seasons. In fact, Williams had the longest tenure with the Steelers out of everyone from the 2013 draft class.
Through his hard work, drive and willingness, Williams was able to carve out an eight-year career with the Steelers when many doubted him. He was a player that younger guys looked up to and was a beacon in the Pittsburgh community. He was the quintessential Steeler.
Along with his bone-crushing hits and exceptional abilities as a run defender, his interception on Tom Brady in 2017 and pick-six off Cam Newton in 2018 will be ever-lasting memories.
I'll also never forget on Christmas Day in 2017 when Williams laid down with DeAndre Hopkins after a failed two-point attempt by the Texans in the fourth quarter and the Steelers were leading by 21 points. Williams was never shy to lighten the room and make people laugh. He had one of the best Twitter accounts among Steelers players, as he often interacted with fans and wasn't afraid to talk about topics other than football. Williams studied creative writing at Florida State and whether it was through an interview or on Twitter, he always had an articulate and unique perspective on things.
I'll also remember the "Shake and Bake" days with Williams and his fellow inside linebacker and close friend Ryan Shazier. Williams was there for Shazier every step of the way in his successful recovery after suffering a career-ending spinal cord injury against the Bengals in Week 13 of the 2017 season.
On Friday, Williams tweeted that he was riding around Pittsburgh a couple more times. I'm sure during that ride Williams reflected about the near-decade that he spent as a Steeler and in Pittsburgh. I'm also sure that where ever Williams lands next, he'll be a treasure to that team and city because he sure was for the Steelers and Pittsburgh.