Just before the start of training camp, veteran linebacker Vince Williams has announced that he is retiring from the NFL after eight seasons in the league, the Steelers announced Wednesday. Williams spent his entire career at Pittsburgh and was the second-longest retained defensive starter (team Cam Heyward was the longest) on the team and the third most retained Steeler (Heyward, Ben Roethlisberger). The team was notified of his decision to walk away from the game on Wednesday, and the organization praised his efforts given to the franchise during his tenure.
“Vince Williams announced to us today that he will retire from the game of football,” Steelers general manager and vice president Kevin Colbert said in a statement released by the team. “We respect his decision and would like to thank him for his time with us as he consistently showed great character and leadership beyond his contributions on the pitch. We wish Vince and his family all the best.”
Williams was drafted in the sixth round (206th overall) by the Steelers back in 2013 and blossomed into a key element to their defense. In 14 games played (all starts) last season, the 31-year-old made up 70 tackles (third-best grade in his career), a career-high 14 tackles for a loss (fifth in the NFL last year) and three sacks. In his career (121 games in the regular season) Williams finishes with 479 tackles, 20.5 sacks and 50 tackles for a loss.
As for who can replace Williams in Pittsburgh’s defense, it could very well be a camp game consisting of Robert Spillane, Marcus Allen and rookie Buddy Johnson. The team recently signed linebacker Melvin Ingram to a one-year deal, but he plays primarily on the outside, meaning he is unlikely to help fill Williams’ shoes.