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.
University hands Huskies first loss; East edges Elkins
The mercy rule has been a familiar part of North Marion’s softball season.
Through the first seven games, the Huskies regularly pounded their opponents with stingy defense, sharp pitching and timely hitting. Rarely did a game go all seven innings for the previously undefeated team.
Huggins signs junior college guard
Coach Bob Huggins completed his 2014-15 West Virginia University recruiting class on Wednesday and deemed it a success after receiving a signed letter of intent from junior college guard Tarik Phillip.
Phillip joins Jevon Carter of Maywood, Ill., and Daxter Miles of Baltimore’s Dunbar High and out of Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts in the 2014-15 recruiting class.
HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU gymnast hopes to stick her final landing
The reaction, one suspects, was the same as most people who see either a picture of West Virginia University gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer or meet her for the first time in person — a quick double take, maybe even stumbling over the first few words of an introduction.
Pirates shut out by Reds’ Cueto, 4-0
Johnny Cueto was on his game, and the only thing that the Pirates could do was watch.
Cueto pitched his third career shutout against the team that beat him in the NL wild card game, and Joey Votto hit a two-run homer that led the Cincinnati Reds over the Pirates 4-0 Wednesday for their first winning series this season.
FURFARI COLUMN: Comparing pay of coaches and professors
Stringing together some odds and ends which may be of interest to you:
• A beautiful lady came up to my table last Sunday at brunch in the Village of Heritage Point’s main dining room with a message.
COLUMN: Extend summer practices without over-extending athletes
Last week we told you about a proposal that would extend the summer practice period for West Virginia high schools.
It’s already cleared the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission Board of Control. Now it’s up to the West Virginia Board of Education to decide if the current three-week window should be expanded by five weeks.
Bussie looks forward to WNBA
On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.
HERTZEL COLUMN: Jackie Robinson’s impact extends beyond baseball
It is Jackie Robinson Day as I sit here writing this today, and I feel as though I am doing it in a world gone mad.
Every player in Major League Baseball wore No. 42 on Tuesday in honor of Jackie Robinson, the man who took racism’s best shot and integrated the game that was known then as the National Pastime even though it was as white a Ku Klux Klan robe.
Pirates finish off suspended game, fall in nightcap
Mike Leake doubled and hit a two-run homer Tuesday night, ending Gerrit Cole’s winning streak and leading the Cincinnati Reds to a 7-5 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates that completed two days full of homers and delays.
WVU’s Harlee named Big 12 Scholar-Athlete
The Big 12 Conference announced its Scholar-Athlete of the Year recipients for the 2014 winter sport season, and West Virginia University senior Jess Harlee earns the honor for women’s basketball.
Harlee was selected as the award winner based on a vote of each respective sport’s head coaching group, with coaches not permitted to vote for their own student-athletes.
- More Sports Headlines
- University hands Huskies first loss; East edges Elkins