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: Down
Reasoning: The return of Vince Williams drops Robert Spillane from the favorite to land a starting job to, at best, competing for one. Perhaps he is even more likely to serve simply as a backup and special teamer.
The Steelers released Vince Williams and his scheduled $4 million base salary earlier this offseason in what was strictly a cap-saving move. While they did so under the belief that Spillane would be capable of starting if necessary, it stands to reason that they were not letting the eight-year veteran go due to performance concerns.
Once again returning to the starting lineup in 2020, Williams started 14 of 14 games (missing two games due to COVID-19). He recorded 70 tackles, including a career-high 14 for loss, in addition to three sacks and two recovered fumbles.
Spillane played 671 defensive snaps in all, often averaging around or over 75 percent of the team’s defensive snaps when he was active last season. He only played about half of the snaps in the postseason game, but finished with seven tackles.
Spillane started seven games last season. But that came in place of an injured Devin Bush. Bush is expected to be back to 100 percent, or thereabouts, in time for the start of the 2021 season after suffering a torn ACL in the first half of the previous season.
Spillane, who himself missed four games at the end of the year due to a knee injury, ultimately started seven of 12 games played, finishing with 45 tackles with two sacks, a recovered fumble, four passes defesned, and a pick six.
It’s unclear what the return of Williams means definitively for him, though, likely, it means he will be moving back to a reserve role. There is a chance Pittsburgh gives him the opportunity to compete for the starting job. It’s possible that he may also rotate in, or play situationally, but it all remains to be seen how it works out.