Williams Adds More 'Nasty' to Offensive Line

When prompted to say what he liked about the Steelers' sixth-round draft pick, Keith Williams, it took offensive line coach Sean Kugler less than twenty words to find one that describes his new player best:

"Nasty."

"Keith is a very physical player," said Kugler. "He likes to mix it up, he has nasty to him. He's an aggressive player."

That nastiness and physicality will allow the Nebraska talent to fit right in with a trench-unit almost entirely comprised of maulers, brawlers, and battlers geared towards pushing the pile in the running game, something that Williams admits he does rather well.

"Yes, my run game, I'm very aggressive," said Williams. "I like to finish. I like to get after it. When it comes to passing I need a little work there. I'm ready to go."

The challenge for the sixth-rounder will be to couple that physical run-game mentality with a more reeled-in approach to pass protection, something that Kugler believes can be taught to a young lineman, especially one who's willing to put in the work.

"Yeah, sometimes with guys that are overaggressive and physical that's the tendency with them, they get overaggressive in pass protection," said Kugler. "That shows up every once in awhile. It's something that can be corrected. He's a willing worker. He's in good shape, and a tough kid. The thing that we like the most about Keith is his toughness and that is a good quality in a lineman."

Williams should have no issues working with the ultra-intense Kugler in practices or in camp, as he arrives from a stint at Nebraska under head coach Bo Pelini, a mentor whom the guard describes as an intense guy who's "all about getting work done." He also arrives battle-tested from an on-field perspective, having squared off in practice against former Husker and reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Ndamukong Suh.

While Williams certainly does fit the "type" of linemen for which Pittsburgh searches, in terms of toughness, work-ethic, and physicality, the Nebraska product will need to show he can fit and operate within the offensive systems laid out by Kugler and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.

The 6'5", 310 lb. Williams is set to ply his trade at guard and will need to show off his versatility on both sides of the line in order to impress his newest team.

"When we do bring guys in, we'll train them [at left and right guard]," Kugler said. "You'll see things on film, athletically, that will tell you that he would be able to do that. With just only seven guys dressing on game day, I think gone are the days where guys are just locked in at one position. They have to be able to play both. And again, when he comes in, we'll train him at both right guard and left guard."

Williams shouldn't have much of an issue adjusting to either position, as he has significant college experience at both spots on the line, having played at least a season-and-a-half on each side at Nebraska.

Secondly, the sixth-round draftee will need to show his coaches that he can pull and reach the edge from the guard position, a move the Pittsburgh Steelers love to throw out in the running game. Once again, Williams' college prepared him well, as Nebraska employed a pro-style, run-heavy offense that made no qualms about pulling offensive linemen and letting them get after it.

Thirdly, as both Williams and Kugler noted shortly after the former's selection by Pittsburgh, the team's new talent will need to learn and improve his skills in pass protection. The young guard will be on the hook to protect the team's $100-million quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, a unique talent in his own right who changes the way that linemen play the pass.

With Keith Williams being a rather raw talent against the pass, the onus will be on the coaching staff to mold him not just into a potent pass-blocker, but a pass-blocker who can think on his feet and keep up with the backyard keep-the-play-alive style employed by Big Ben. Coach Kugler happens to think his newest draftee can pull it off.

"We had Keith in the building," Kugler said. "We brought him up here because we wanted to get an even closer look at him. We liked what we saw on film. We wanted to get him on the board to see how he handles learning things and he was excellent. He is a smart kid, and I think he's going to be a quality guard for us."

Make no mistake, Williams's ability to learn and apply the skills of pass protection will ultimately determine whether he makes the jump from raw talent to starting guard, a process which will likely take a few years. Either way, the former-Husker is ready for the challenge.

"I think I'm going to come in and try to compete, and give everything I've got," said Williams, "I've only got one shot."


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