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: Down
Reasoning: While the second-year inside linebacker returned from a knee injury to play in the Steelers’ Wildcard Round loss on Sunday, the reality is that he did not play very well overall, even if some of the cause was due to the situations the coaches put him in.
The two moments for Robert Spillane that were probably noted most in his return to action on Sunday were a snap in which he was stuck in coverage on Jarvis Landry and gave up an easy reception, and then on one of Kareem Hunt’s touchdown runs on which he was bowled over into the end zone.
That doesn’t give a fair overview of how he actually played, but it does highlight the fact that there were many issues involved in how the Steelers, and the defense, played against the Cleveland Browns. Returning from injury after missing four games and playing the vast majority of the snaps, he finished with eight tackles, including four defensive ‘stops’, but he was a major vulnerability in his area of coverage, which Cleveland exploited.
Spillane is, of course, not meant to be a starter. He only moved into the starting lineup after Devin Bush suffered a torn ACL in the late stages of the first half of the season. And by and large, he stepped up and became an important part of the defense.
Perhaps he was still finding his feet coming back from the injury. Perhaps he was a bit rusty. But we definitely saw him play better before. Then again, we saw pretty much everyone on defense play better earlier in the year than they did against the Browns.
As for his future, he is only going into his third accrued season and will continue to serve as valuable depth for the Steelers, as well as function as a core special teams player. The playing time that he got this year will be valuable, but for insulation purposes.