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: Even in a game in which the Steelers extensively ran out of dime and even seven-defensive back sets, Spillane still played nearly 75 percent of the defensive snaps while Vince Williams played about half, largely coming out of the game late at the end of the blowout. And he is playing with a higher level of comfort in his assignments.
It goes without saying that Robert Spillane being the Steelers’ starting mack linebacker is not the ideal situation when Devin Bush was the starter there before his injury, but as far as the 2020 season is concerned, that is ancient history, and they certainly have not being using his loss as an excuse.
They also haven’t had to, because they’ve been winning, and by and large, Spillane has been positively contributing to their winning efforts. But the most important thing is that he is still growing and gaining experience and confidence the more that he plays.
The second-year man finished Sunday’s game with five tackles, third-most on the team, as well as his first career sack, one of four that the defense had as a whole on the day playing against a rookie quarterback and a pair of backup tackles.
One thing that has to be stated here is that there has been no obvious drop in the quality of the level of communication running throughout the defense since he has been in the lineup instead of Bush. Sure, there are moments, like the big Tee Higgins play in the first half, but that likely didn’t have anything to do with him.
Even with Avery Williamson now in the building, it doesn’t appear, at least as of yet, that there any plans for the veteran starter to eat away into Spillane’s playing time. The only reason that he got on the field on Sunday was because the Steelers already had a commanding lead in the late stages of the game. We’ll see if that changes as the weeks go by, but for now, the team is clearly satisfied with his level of play relative to their alternatives.