Just before the start of training camp, veteran linebacker Vince Williams has announced his retirement from the NFL after eight seasons in the league, the Steelers announced on Wednesday. Williams spent his entire career with Pittsburgh and was the second-longest-tenured defensive starter (Cam Heyward being the longest-tenured) on the team and third-most-tenured Steeler (Heyward, Ben Roethlisberger). The team was notified of his decision to walk away from the game on Wednesday and the organization commended his efforts given to the franchise over the course of his tenure.
“Vince Williams notified us today that he will retire from the game of football,” said Steelers general manager and vice president Kevin Colbert in a statement released by the team. “We respect his decision and want to thank him for his time with us as he consistently showed great character and leadership in addition to his contributions on the field. 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 piece to their defense. In 14 games played (all starts) last season, the 31 year old totaled 70 tackles (third-best mark of his career), a career-high 14 tackles for a loss (ranked fifth in the NFL last year), and three sacks. For his career (121 regular-season games), Williams finishes with 479 tackles, 20.5 sacks and 50 tackles for a loss.
As for who may be replacing Williams within Pittsburgh’s defense, it could very well turn into a camp battle consisting of Robert Spillane, Marcus Allen and rookie Buddy Johnson. The team did recently sign linebacker Melvin Ingram to a one-year deal, but he primarily plays on the outside meaning he likely won’t factor into filling Williams’ shoes.