The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Robert Spillane will be given an opportunity to compete with Vince Williamsfor a starting job
Explanation: While the Steelers have re-signed Vince Williams, the fact that he was previously released implies that they have a degree of comfort in moving on without him. In other words, they don’t see him as an essential starter, and they were willing to move on with Spillane. Given that set of facts, one can speculate as to whether or not they view Williams as clearly the better player.
While detractors exaggerate Vince Williams’ supposed lack of athleticism, it remains the case that the Steelers last season left Robert Spillane on the field in situations that they have not with Williams.
With their losses at defensive back limiting their ability to play in a dime defense, that makes it all the more important to have a buck linebacker you can leave on the field. They’ve already shown that they’re willing to leave Spillane on the field when he was filling in for Devin Bush last year, when both he and Williams were on the field. Starting with the first Baltimore game, Spillane was playing as much or more than Williams consistently every week leading up to his knee injury.
The only reason that Spillane was playing more is because he was filling in as a mack linebacker for Devin Bush after his injury. Even though he thinks he can cover Jarvis Landry, Spillane is still not a coverage linebacker who would stay on the field more as a buck if there are alternatives.
Vince Williams is the heart and soul of this defense and one of their premiere run defenders. At best, Spillane would have a package for him in order to get on the field in certain situations that might not play to Williams’ strengths. But the nine-year veteran will be the one out on the field more often than not. His release was only due to the salary cap, and certainly not a matter of choosing Spillane over him. If Spillane made a penny more and they needed a penny, Pittsburgh would release him. Instead, he plays for the veteran minimum.