Now that the 2021 offseason has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, 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 offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future.
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: The Steelers announced that they agreed to terms with exclusive rights free agent linebacker Robert Spillane on a one-year deal, allowing him to return as the team’s top backup at the position, and possibly even with a chance to start.
It would be fairly obvious to say that Robert Spillane’s positioning now compared to this time last season is significantly better. At the same point of the calendar in 2020—nevermind the pandemic—the former undrafted free agent was coming off of essentially the first meaningful half-season of his career.
Originally signing with the Tennessee Titans after the 2018 NFL Draft, Spillane only spent a couple of games on the roster. He signed a futures deal with the Steelers in 2019, and showed enough in training camp to make the roster. After Ulysees Gilbert III’s back injury landed him on injured reserve, Spillane got promoted, and he proceeded to make headway on special teams.
That was a good start, but few probably anticipated that he would open the 2020 season as the team’s top backup inside linebacker—or that he would have to enter the starting lineup himself, following Devin Bush’s season-ending torn ACL in game five.
Before suffering a knee injury of his own and consequently missing the tail end of the regular season, he logged seven starts over 12 games, putting up 45 tackles across 377 defensive snaps, including four tackles for loss. He also ended the year with two sacks, three hits, and five passes defensed, among them a pick six against the Baltimore Ravens.
What comes next for him, however? At least as of the time of this writing, the Steelers still have Vince Williams in the starting lineup. He and his $4 million base salary could potentially be a cap casualty, however, given the team’s salary cap situation. In such an event, Spillane would have the chance of entering the starting lineup. Failing that, though, he has already established himself as a top backup and someone who has the coaches’ trust.