From winless to undefeated, Avery Williamson could play big role for Steelers

PITTSBURGH -- For the first time in nearly two years, Avery Williamson was in uniform as his team won a game Sunday.

The Pittsburgh Steelers held off the Dallas Cowboys to improve to 8-0, and Williamson was there wearing a black and gold uniform on the sideline.

Traded from the winless New York Jets to the undefeated Steelers just before the deadline, Williamson was active but didn't play because he was only able to physically join his team a day earlier after clearing COVID-19 protocols.

Even so, he relished the experience of a winning locker room for the first time in a long time. The last time Williamson played in a winning game was Dec. 9, 2018 when the Jets beat the Buffalo Bills.

"In New York, we still had a good locker room but it's tough when you're losing," Williamson said Thursday, speaking to the Pittsburgh media for the first time since the trade. "You can definitely have a lot of different emotions. It's tough, coming here. Complete opposite getting that first win on Sunday even though I wasn't able to contribute physically.

"It's fun. I hadn't won in a while. Definitely cool to just be in a winning locker room and be in a celebration of that win."

Williamson might not be a spectator for long.

With veteran inside linebacker Vince Williams on the Reserve/COVID-19 list as a high-risk close contact of tight end Vance McDonald, who returned a positive test result for the virus on Monday, Williamson may be asked to step into a large role against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET, FOX).

Against the Cowboys, Williams played 60 snaps, and a week earlier, he played 71. If Williams continues testing negative for the virus and doesn't develop symptoms, he can be activated from the list on Saturday. Otherwise, Williamson may be asked to absorb the bulk of Williams' snaps and play alongside Robert Spillane.

Williamson feels comfortable if called on.

"I definitely feel like I've got enough work this week," he said. "Nothing's going to be perfect. Just got to prepare for the worst. I definitely feel like I've done a good job so far. Practice is definitely different from the game, but glad I'm soaking the information in ... We'll see what happens with Vince, but hopefully he'll be able to play on Sunday."

There are some similarities between the Steelers' scheme and the one Williamson previously played when he was with the Tennessee Titans, something that made him an attractive player at the trade deadline.

"He's a guy that fortifies depth in an area in which we have been challenged recently," coach Mike Tomlin said after acquiring Williamson. "At the trade deadline, we thought it was necessary if we had an opportunity to get a known commodity, one like Avery Williamson that we are somewhat familiar with and is somewhat familiar with our schematics, and put him into the fold, with as much ball that we have that lies ahead, it was a prudent thing for us to do."

In his first practice with the team Wednesday, Williamson noticed the similarities in language and scheme immediately.

"I can definitely say yesterday was a lot smoother than I was expecting it to be from a mental standpoint," he said. "... It's got some similarities. I'm definitely learning on the fly but picking up on it. I feel pretty good, and coaches and players are doing a good job of getting me as much information as possible."