Now that the 2020 regular season 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 are seeing over the course of the season as it plays out. Who is making plays? Who is missing them? Who is losing snaps? Who is struggling to stay on the field?
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. 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 season as we move forward.
Player: ILB Robert Spillane
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: After filling in on Sunday following Devin Bush’s injury and playing well, Mike Tomlin confirmed the obvious yesterday in saying that Spillane would be the primary player to subsume the snaps lost at the inside linebacker position moving forward.
The Steelers entered this season with two backup inside linebackers who had never played on defense in the NFL before—plus a converted safety who also had very limited experience, and who is for my money still a glorified safety.
But sometimes players just need the opportunity to get on the field and play to demonstrate what they are capable of. An undrafted free agent will never be able to show his talent if he is never given a chance to do so, and as we all know, some of the greatest players to ever play the game have slipped through the draft entirely.
Now, I’m not about to suggest that that is the trajectory Robert Spillane, a 2018 college free agent out of Western Michigan, now finds himself on, but I do believe that he has some talent to his game and will not prove to be a liability for the defense.
Coming off the bench largely cold on Sunday, outside of playing on special teams, he did not look out of place in the lineup in his first extended in-game action of his career, even making a couple of significant plays, most notably blowing up a tight end screen for lost yardage.
Tomlin said yesterday during his pre-game press conference that Spillane would be the primary player to replace Bush, who is done for the season and scheduled to have ACL repair surgery today, but he also said that he won’t be the only one employed to try to make up those snaps.
The bottom line is that he is being given the opportunity to confirm that he is capable of being ‘the guy’, or at least the main guy, a player who can step in and keep the forward momentum of the defense churning and making sure that they can function at a championship-caliber level. I believe he is capable of rising to this challenge. I hope he proves me right.