Things no doubt might have played out differently this offseason had there been no global pandemic, which wreaked havoc on the NFL’s economics during the past year. Players who otherwise would still be with their former teams are now elsewhere, or even on the street.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are among those teams who were forced into making some salary cap casualties as a result of the approximately $25 million swing in terms of where the salary cap was expected to be versus where it currently is.
One of those cuts was Vince Williams, among the leaders of the defense, whose role will now have to be filled by another. The most likely in-house candidate is Robert Spillane, going into his third season as a former college free agent, but he’s not taking anything for granted.
“I don’t pencil myself in anywhere, because nothing’s guaranteed. Nothing’s given to you”, he told reporters earlier today during a Zoom interview. “I know I’m gonna have to go in OTAs, Spring camp, and earn everything that I have. I don’t expect anything to be given to me, and I don’t want anything to be given to me”.
“I expect to go out there and earn it, and go through the offseason program and show that I can be a better player than I was last year, and show that I’ve gotten better”, he went on. “That’s my goal every year, and nothing’s changed with that. I look forward to getting back with the group of guys and showing the improvements I’ve made this offseason and going from there”.
Spillane, in two years, has gone from a practice squad player to now potentially starting. Called up to the 53-man roster midseason in 2019, he became a tackling machine while playing on special teams. With the departures of Mark Barron and Tyler Matakevich, he competed with Ulysees Gilbert III for the top backup role in 2020, and won.
When Devin Bush went down with a torn ACL a month and a half into the season, then, it was Spillane who stepped up into the starting lineup. He ultimately started seven games during the regular season, though it would have been 11 if he had not missed the final four games due to a knee injury of his own.
Bush is, of course, expected to be back on the field, but with Williams gone, it will likely be the guy that Mike Tomlin likes to call Mickey who moves in next to him. But there is still a lot of offseason left to unfold, moves to be made, assumptions to be proven or disproven, and he knows that well, and embraces it.