Now that the 2020 offseason has begun, following a second consecutive season in which they failed to even reach the playoffs, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past season, and with notice to anything that happens going forward.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we move forward.
Player: ILB Robert Spillane
Stock Value: Up
I’m not quite certain there is another player on the Steelers’ roster who may have been more directly impacted by the events of this offseason to date with respect to their job security—in a positive way—than second-year inside linebacker Robert Spillane, who spent eight games on the team’s 53-man roster a year ago.
Spillane was effectively the team’s sixth inside linebacker, with Devin Bush, Mark Barron, Vince Williams, Tyler Matakevich, and Ulysees Gilbert III having all made the team. When Gilbert was placed on injured reserve midseason, he was called up from the practice squad. He would go on to record 11 special teams tackles in just eight games.
Since the end of last season, the Steelers released Barron and saw Matakevich leave in free agency. While Barron’s presence doesn’t affect special teams, Matakevich was regarded as perhaps their best special teams player overall.
The depth chart at inside linebacker now currently sits at four, with Bush and Williams the starters and Gilbert and Spillane the backups and special teamers. There is a reasonable chance that the Steelers will add an inside linebacker to this mix, though I may give slightly better odds to an outside linebacker being added instead.
Either way, it’s quite common for the team to carry five inside linebackers because it tends to be a position rife with special teamers, from Patrick Bailey and Terence Garvin to L.J. Fort and Matter Cabbage.
The fact that he was able to make such an impact on special teams during the half of a season on which he was a part of the 53-man roster was a great audition tape for him heading into 2020, and something the front office will be thinking about during the draft.
Personally speaking, I also thought that he had a strong preseason, and showed the ability to play in coverage as well, which will go a long way toward helping his viability as well. While Gilbert, barring a more significant addition, should be expected to become the third linebacker, Spillane currently is positioned pretty well to retain a roster spot.