The Pittsburgh Steelers are running out of healthy inside linebackers.
The team placed veteran Vince Williams on the reserve/COVID-19 list, meaning he won’t be available when the Steelers (11-1) visit surging Buffalo (9-3) on Sunday night.
Pittsburgh did receive a bit of good news on Friday when center Maurkice Pouncey was activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list. Pouncey went on the list hours before a victory over Baltimore on Dec. 2 and also sat out a loss to Washington on Monday.
Williams’ absence further drains an already thin inside linebacker group. Devin Bush was lost for the season after tearing the ACL in his left knee in a win over Cleveland on Oct. 18. Robert Spillane, who’d filled in capably after taking over for Bush, also is out against Buffalo after injuring his left knee in the game against Washington.
That leaves recently acquired Avery Williamson and Marcus Allen — a converted safety — as the top options while Pittsburgh tries to clinch a playoff berth.
“I am like, ‘Shoot, OK next man up,’” said Williamson, brought over in a trade with the New York Jets last month. “It’s hard to get the chemistry, but the biggest thing is to make sure the communication is well and whoever is out there we are talking. As long as everybody knows what to do that is the main thing.”
Williamson has 12 tackles in four games since coming over from the Jets and played 38 defensive snaps against Washington, his highest total as a Steeler.
“I am super excited and ready for this opportunity,” said Williamson, who will become a free agent next spring. “I didn’t know how things were going to play out, but it’s kind of crazy the way the last week has spiraled. I have been a starter for a long time, and I am ready to go out there and prove myself again.”
Williamson could be thrust into the role of defensive signal-caller if the Steelers have him wear the green communication dot in his helmet. It’s a responsibility Williamson believes he’s capable of handling.
“I thought I was ready the first week I got here, but I was nowhere near ready,” he said. “It took me a little time. I have never been in a situation where I got traded and had to learn a new playbook in the middle of the season. It’s definitely difficult. Thankfully the playbook isn’t too crazy. That helps out a lot. The coaches are helping me as much as possible. I feel a lot more comfortable.”
NOTES: CB Joe Haden (concussion) will not play against the Bills. Cam Sutton, who started last week in place of Steven Nelson, will take over for Haden. … K Chris Boswell, who sat out against Washington with a hip issue, is expected to play.