As most expected prior to Mike Tomlin’s Tuesday presser, Robert Spillane is the classic “next man up” in replacing Devin Bush. Not that he will be the *only* man up. But Tomlin confirmed Spillane will earn the bulk of the work replacing the team’s star linebacker.
“We’ve got a great deal of confidence in Robert,” Tomlin told reporters. “We’ll continue to largely go with him in replacement of Devin. We will through game planning look at all options in terms of dividing the labor up. But Robert will be the primary man responsible for replacing Devin. We’re excited about watching him play and play to the standards of our expectation.”
Spillane played every single defensive snap after replacing Bush in Sunday’s blowout win against the Browns, finishing the game with six total tackles. Sunday against the Tennessee Titans will mark his first career start. He began his pro career with Tennessee, signing as a UDFA in 2018, before signing a futures deal with Pittsburgh in February of 2019.
He was elevated to the 53 midway through last year following Ulysees Gilbert III’s season-ending back injury. Spillane recorded 11 special teams tackles in just eight games and began 2020 as a four-phase, core special teamer. Tomlin said Spillane has been on the team’s radar since he came out of Western Michigan, the same year the team drafted teammate Chukwuma Okorafor in the 3rd round.
“We follow [the MAC] and the guys on our team reflect that. We had a college teammate here that was highly regarded in Chuks that we drafted round three. So we were very familiar with Robert.”
While the Steelers are confident in Spillane, they haven’t quite mapped out a division of labor, snap count, or who will be the central communicator.
“We’ll hammer out some of those details like who’s carrying the green dot, what’s the division of labor. I doubt that Robert Spillane will be playing all the defensive snaps. And so it’ll probably require a combination of people in an effort to replace Devin Bush.”
Bush was the sole wearer of the green dot through the first five games, an easy choice as a second-year player who logged every single defensive snap. That’ll be a tougher task without a clear-cut guy at linebacker. Other options include veteran Vince Williams, one of the smartest players on the team, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Cam Sutton. Spillane wore the green dot for the rest of the Browns’ game.