Inside linebacker Robert Spillane will return to the starting lineup for tonight’s Wild Card game against the Cleveland Browns. But impressed by the job Avery Williamson’s done filling in, Mike Tomlin says he expects to have a rotation of inside linebackers for the playoffs.
Speaking with Steelers.com’s Bob Labriola, Tomlin broke down the status of the ILB position. He praised the job Williamson did on the fly after being acquired mid-season in a trade with the New York Jets.
“We’ve been really appreciative of the contributions of Avery,” Tomlin said. “It has been really spectacular what he has been able to do and bring to us. You just don’t run into a guy who has that type of playing experience and productivity in the manner in which we did, and he brought that productivity to us.”
Despite starting only four games, Williamson racked up 52 tackles with the Steelers. That tied for 6th on the team, just two behind Cameron Heyward and one behind TJ Watt. Tackles are far from the best stat in grading a player’s effectiveness but Williamson came as advertised. Sound tackler, good blocker shedder, always around the football.
But Spillane did an outstanding job as “next man up” for Devin Bush. And Tomlin’s clearly excited to have him back in the lineup. Williamson will begin the game on the bench and worked in throughout the game.
“But we have good issues to deal with now that Robert is back. We have three guys available to us. We’ll go into the game with an eye toward playing them all. Avery will be the third. How much he plays and how we divvy those snaps will really be determined as we get into the game, and things such as Robert’s effectiveness and level of conditioning and the flow of the game all will be factors in determining that.”
Spillane offers more in coverage than Williamson or Vince Williams. Here’s the QB rating of each when targeted this year, according to our charting.
An obvious contrast.
It’s unclear exactly how the Steelers may rotate. They could do it based on personnel grouping playing Williamson in base and Spillane in sub-packages. Or, more likely, they could rotate by series, having Spillane play two of every three before getting a breather with Williamson coming in for relief.