Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Ryan Shazier’s injury has forced an additional responsibility on inside linebacker Vince Williams.
Shazier underwent spinal stabilization surgery on Wednesday for an injury he suffered Monday night. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Shazier is out for the rest of this season and will need months of recovery before he could even consider playing again.
While the Steelers players and organization no doubt have Shazier on their minds, they also have to replace him on the field. That includes calling the plays on defense. That responsibility falls on Williams — but defensive end Cameron Heyward says Williams is no stranger to the job, according to Penn Live’s Jacob Klinger:
The veteran defensive end said Williams called plays when Shazier was in and out of Pittsburgh’s Week 3 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles last season. Williams has played both inside linebacker positions for Pittsburgh.
Williams entered the 2017 season with a big responsibility. He had to replace longtime starting linebacker Lawrence Timmons, who signed with the Miami Dolphins during the offseason. In the previous three seasons, Williams started a total of six games.
Through 12 games this season Williams has the second-most sacks on the Steelers with 7, trailing Heyward and his 9. He is rated as the 44th-best linebacker in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus.
For the Steelers to remain in the hunt for a Super Bowl, they are going to have to rely on Williams to be a playmaker on defense. He can’t be Shazier, but he can be a player whom opposing offenses have to account for.