Vince Williams wasn’t supposed to grow up this quickly.
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie linebacker ended up not having a choice.
A season-ending injury to veteran Larry Foote and inconsistent play by Kion Wilson has thrust Williams into a starting role, and while fellow rookie Jarvis Jones struggles to learn the intricacies of Pittsburgh’s 3-4 defense, Williams is quietly holding his own.
Though defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau cautions it’s too soon to make any real judgment on the play of Williams or Jones, who has been demoted to the second string, there’s little doubt he’s pleased with how far Williams has come.
“I think that Vince is doing a good job,” LeBeau said. “He’s getting better every week. That’s what we’re looking for from both of those young guys. They’re playing a lot of football for us. The faster they get to be a veteran — we’re getting close to the halfway mark, which you can’t call them rookies, but they’re first-year men. They’re both really good men and are working hard. They both are going to be fine.”
Even if at the moment, the sixth-round selection Williams is perhaps a little more fine than Jones, taken with the 17th overall pick.
“(But) I think Jarvis is on schedule for a first-year linebacker,” LeBeau said. “I don’t think he’s further ahead or behind where James Harrison was, Jason Worilds was or LaMarr Woodley was. I think Jarvis is going to be fine. I like to think he isn’t either ahead or behind of where a first-year linebacker should be. (And) Jarvis is a playmaker. I’ve got to find ways to put him in where he can make plays. (So), I’m looking for good things from Jarvis.”
While the Steelers expect and certainly need big plays from Jones, Williams just needs to be steady on the inside. And while there have been some growing pains along the way, Williams has been solid. He’s fourth on the team with 37 total tackles, including 23 solo, while Jones has 15 tackles and three quarterback pressures.
“I really feel like I’m getting the hang of it now, and things are starting to slow down a tad for me,” Williams said. “I’ve been getting more reps now, the feel for it is a lot better, and things are really starting to happen for me. So, there’s a big difference between my play at the beginning and how I’m playing now.”
The Steelers (2-5) need Williams to continue his growth spurt on Sunday against New England (6-2).
“Coach LeBeau has a very complicated and intricate defense, and it takes a lot to be able to master it and get it down to be able to go out there and perform,” Williams said. “It’s especially tough for a guy in his first year in the NFL, so it takes a great deal and dedication. But I think I’m getting there slowly, but surely.”
NOTES: WR Markus Wheaton (right pinkie finger), OG David DeCastro (ankle) and CB Curtis Brown (not injury related) already have been ruled out for this week. ... Guy Whimper likely will replace DeCastro in the starting lineup. “They didn’t tell me that yet,” Whimper said. “But I’ve practiced all week like I’m going to start, and I’ll be ready if I get the call.” ... The long list of probable players, includes OG Ramon Foster (concussion), NT Steve McLendon (illness), ILB Lawrence Timmons (hand) and Whimper (knee).
Vince Williams wasn’t supposed to grow up this quickly.
Polar Bear tennis sweeps East: PHOTOS
Last week East Fairmont’s girls’ tennis team beat Fairmont Senior, 4-3.
Wednesday at Fairmont State University, the Polar Bears returned the favor with a 5-2 win over their cross-town rival.
Alissa Link won No. 1 singles, 8-4. Morgan Hoke won No. 3 singles, 9-7. And Avery Towns won No. 4 singles, 8-5, for the Polar Bears.
Falcons set for spring game
Football is back … well, kind of.
Today at 7 p.m., Fairmont State will hold its annual Maroon & White spring game at Duvall-Rosier Field. The scoreboard won’t mean a whole lot since it’s little more than a glorified scrimmage. Instead, here are five things to watch during today’s game.
HERTZEL COLUMN: NCAA football is thriving in the digital age
The other day Baylor football coach Art Briles walked into his graduate assistants’ office and had to laugh at what he saw.
“There’s five guys sitting in there — a couple of GA’s and some office personnel — and they all are within a foot and a half of each other and not a one of them is talking to each other,” Briles said, describing the scene “Every one of them is on the phone.”
Hillberry commits to Wesleyan
Last year Emma Harrison and Kaitlyn Conaway teamed up with Alexis Hillberry to win several relay medals at the state track meet.
Though the two West Virginia Wesleyan runners are now in college, they helped to pass the baton to Hillberry Wednesday when she signed her National Letter of Intent to join her former teammates on the Bobcats’ track team.
O’Brien leads WVU baseball past Marshall
Catcher Cam O’Brien made a bid at becoming only the second West Virginia University player to hit for the cycle as the Mountaineers jumped on Marshall early and routed their in-state rival, 10-3, behind strong pitching from Corey Walter and a pair of relievers.
North, East softball earn blowout wins
The North Marion softball team was at it again Wednesday night.
Mattie Polling tripled and singled, starting pitcher Chelsi Latocha doubled and gave up just one hit as the Huskies rolled to another 3-inning mercy-rule victory over Lewis County, 18-1.
Simon, Bruce lead Reds past Bucs, 5-2
Alfredo Simon pitched into the seventh inning despite erratic control, Jay Bruce drove in a run for a fifth consecutive game and the Cincinnati Reds beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-2 Wednesday night.
Simon (3-1) worked 6 2-3 innings and allowed two runs on four hits and five walks while striking out four.
Pens squander lead, fall to Columbus
Brandon Dubinsky scored with 22.5 seconds left in regulation to force overtime and Nick Foligno’s wrist shot just inside the blue line 2:49 into the extra session gave the Columbus Blue Jackets a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night.
Cousins Sansalone, Craig lead Polar Bears past B-U: PHOTOS
They say you don’t mess with family. Buckhannon-Upshur found that one out the hard way.
Mascaro signs with FSU
Gabi Mascaro is staying in Fairmont.
After considering several out-of-state colleges, the Fairmont Senior soccer standout signed her National Letter of Intent Tuesday to continue her career at Fairmont State University, an upstart program which will play its first games in 2015.
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