The Steelers placed linebacker Ulysees Gilbert III on the Reserve/Injured List, shortly after he was ruled out for Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts with an ankle injury. With Gilbert on the Reserve/Injured List, the team has room on the Active/Inactive roster for linebacker Vince Williams, as his two-day COVID-19 roster exemption has expired.
Gilbert III played in four games in 2020 after being hampered previously with an injury. He was previously placed on the Reserve/Injured List on Nov. 4 but returned on Dec. 12.
Williams was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 List on Dec. 10, missing two games before being activated on Dec. 23.
Having Williams back is a huge boost for the defense.
"It means we have a leader in the linebacker corps that has been doing it for a while," said safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. "Avery (Williamson) and Chico (Marcus Allen) did a great job while they were out there. Vince has been running this defense for a long time. It's good to have him back. He is communicating well. Things are just a little more fluid when you have a guy that has been there for a while."
It's that communication that makes a huge difference with Williams on the field. As Fitzpatrick said, both Williamson and Allen have done solid jobs, but Williams knows the defense inside and out.
"A voice, definitely. Communication is going to help us," said defensive coordinator Keith Butler. "The guys who have been in there have done a pretty good job of communicating, but Vince is a little more confident in what he's doing. The people around him are a little more confident in terms of what we are doing with him in there and stuff like that. It's going to help us for sure."
Williams has started 12 games this season at right inside linebacker, before missing the last two games on the list.
Williams has 63 tackles on the season, including 41 solo stops and three sacks, along with 14 tackles for a loss and two fumble recoveries.
"He beams confidence," said linebacker T.J. Watt. "He loves football. He absolutely loves this game. He enjoys being around the guys in the locker room and we love his company as well. To have a guy in a leadership role back on the inside of our defense, being able to make calls, and be very assertive with his calls and be very confident. What he has been doing, it's awesome to have him back this week and I am excited to play alongside him again."