Robert Spillane may not be a household name, but he is an in-house name for the Pittsburgh Steelers and one for whom they have a lot of respect. A former college free agent out of Western Michigan (and thus college teammates with Chukwuma Okorafor), he is a second-year special-teamer whom they entrusted this year with the role of being the next man up at the inside linebacker position, and the only true inside linebacker they had been dressing on Sundays as a reserve.
With Devin Bush’s injury, that will change, of course. He figures to move into the starting lineup and take at least the majority of the mack linebacker snaps that the Steelers play for the remainder of the season, provided that he keeps up a certain level of play.
But the coaches, and his teammates, seem to believe that he is capable of delivering, and he made it clear yesterday that he is comfortable in knowing that and in his role within the team. “I’ve gotten comfortable with guys over the past two years”, he told reporters, via a video of yesterday’s interview provided by the team’s media department.
“It feels really awesome, because as soon as I stepped on the field, I felt like my teammates trusted me and they’ve respected the work that I’ve put in through these past two years”, he said. “They told me, ‘Rob, you belong out here, this is what you’re meant to do, so go out there and show everybody what we know you can do’”.
Spillane spent two games on the Tennessee Titans’ 53-man roster in 2018 as a rookie before being waived. The Steelers signed him as a futures player in 2019, and he made the initial practice squad at what was at the time a deep position, but was called up halfway through the year due to Ulysees Gilbert III’s injury, and became a special teams standout in the process. Now he must stand out on defense as well.
In his 30 snaps against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, he did, at least on a couple of plays. He blew up tight end Austin Hooper for a loss on one screen play, and finished the game with six total tackles despite playing only roughly half of the game (Bush played 27 of 57 snaps).
Opinions outside the building certainly seem to be very mixed regarding believe in Spillane’s ability to step into the starting lineup, but there is at least one thing that tis abundantly clear, and that is nobody that they would be able to bring in would be an adequate replacement for Bush in the first place.
The second-year man will get his opportunity to show that he is capable of handling the job. Personally, I think he can deliver winning football and help keep the defensive train rolling. Here’s to hoping that he proves me right.