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2021 Offseason Questions: What Does Vince Williams Re-Signing Mean For Robert Spillane?

Vince Williams and Robert Spillane

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books, and it ended in spectacular fashion — though the wrong kind of spectacular — in a dismal postseason defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, sending them into an early offseason mode after going 12-4 in the regular season and winning the AFC North for the first time in three years.

After setting a franchise record by opening the year on an 11-game winning streak, they followed that up by losing three games in a row. Pittsburgh went 1-4 in the final five, with only a 17-point comeback staving off a five-game slide. But all the issues they had in the regular season showed up in the postseason, resulting in their early exit.

The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions. And right now, they lack answers. What will Ben Roethlisberger do, and what will they do with him? What will the salary cap look like? How many free agents are they going to lose? Who could they possibly afford to retain? Who might they part ways with—not just on the roster, but also on the coaching staff?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football is a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked. Though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: What does the re-signing of Vince Williams mean for Robert Spillane?

The Steelers announced some good news yesterday with the re-signing of veteran inside linebacker Vince Williams. Williams has been a full-time starter for the better part of the past four seasons. The team released him earlier this offseason in a cap-saving move before re-signing him, presumably to a very modest, perhaps veteran-minimum deal.

Prior to the move, the assumption was that third-year Robert Spillane would move into the starting lineup. He started seven games last season next to Williams (and Avery Williamson) with Devin Bush injured. But with Bush returning, it would seem that there is now one too many to start.

I think the fair and logical assumption is that Pittsburgh re-signed Williams to return to the starting lineup. But what does that mean for Spillane and his defensive playing time? Will he only come into the game in order to give Williams a rest when he’s gassed on long drives, which was the case at the start of last season?

Could we see something more akin to the manner in which James Farrior and Larry Foote shared the buck position at the end of the former’s career, in which both of them were able to get on the field? Spillane played more in passing situations than the Steelers have allowed Williams. So perhaps there is potential for some situational substitution.

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