Kion Wilson embraces challenge of starting

PITTSBURGH -- The term island is most associated in football with cornerback, but the Steelers won’t leave inside linebacker Kion Wilson on one Monday night in Cincinnati.

Wilson, who was out of football last season, takes over for the injured Larry Foote at strongside inside linebacker. And the Steelers will do as much as they can to help Wilson transition from special-teams player to starter.

Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler said Wilson will relay defensive calls in the huddle but that inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons will set the defense prior to the snap.

In addition, safeties Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu will be given authority to make adjustments or change the defensive call prior to the snap because of their vantage point from the back end of the defense and their combined 23 seasons of NFL experience.

“We’ll be OK,” Butler said, “because we’ve got enough veteran guys that have done it before.”

The Steelers should also be OK with Wilson, whom they will spell with rookie Vince Williams, in one sense.

He is not likely to get stage fright at Paul Brown Stadium given all that he has overcome just to get to this point.

Wilson bounced around the league for two seasons, playing a combined eight games for the Chargers and Panthers. Last year he worked as an insurance adjuster in New York in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and later sold insurance.

Wilson was not moving on with his life but rather earning enough money to "make ends meet," and continue training in his quest to return to the NFL.

The former undrafted free agent will take the perspective of where he has been into his first NFL start.

And who knew that the former insurance salesman would turn out to be the Steelers’ insurance policy for Foote, who is out for the rest of the season with a torn bicep?

“It’s still just a childhood dream for me at this point,” Wilson said. “But I know I have one mission to accomplish. I still feel that my best football is yet to come.”

So do the Steelers.

“Kion’s made some plays and he’s an aggressive guy,” Butler said. “He can run, he’s quick, and we want to take a good look at him and see what happens. We still like Vince Williams too so both of them are probably going to end up playing.”