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: Robert Spillane stepped into the starting lineup against arguably the most hardnosed offense in the NFL on Sunday. He didn’t come out of it unscathed, but he held his own, which is what the Steelers needed him to do.
A second-year former college free agent who had never played a defensive snap before this season is not the ideal solution for replacing a former 10th-overall pick who is coming off a rookie season in which he recorded 0ver 100 tackles with six takeaways and who had being an every-down player and defensive signal-caller.
But so much about the average NFL season is simply a war of attrition, and that’s what the Steelers being forced to shift from Devin Bush to Robert Spillane is. They lost their star inside linebacker for the year due to a torn ACL, and their backup was somebody whom almost nobody outside of Pittsburgh would know.
That’s fine, because the play on the field is how most players do their talking. While Spillane didn’t load up the stat sheet, he made arguably the play of the game with his big stick in the hole against Derrick Henry at the goal line on third and one.
Unfortunately, the pop was so forceful against such a big back that he dinged his shoulder in the process. Even worse, the Titans still ended up scoring two plays later. But it was a statement play, not just for the player, but for the team, and that would not be undaunted when they lose a man, that the next man up, once he’s up, is the man.
Spillane is the man now, even if the full weight of the responsibilities won’t be placed squarely on his shoulders. Others—Ulysees Gilbert III, Cameron Sutton, maybe Justin Layne, or Sean Davis—will absorb some snaps. The communication responsibilities are shared by many, especially Vince Williams.
But the point is this. He’s their guy. They know he’s their guy, and he knows he’s their guy. Now their opponents know it, too. And they know he can lay the wood, that you’re not going to run over him.