2021 Offseason Questions: Who Will Log More Defensive Snaps Between Spillane, Williams?

Williams and Spillane sack Tannehill

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books. 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.

Since then, they have lost several players in free agency who were key members of the offense and defense. Multiple starters retired, as well. They made few notable additions in free agency, and are banking on contributions on offense from their rookies, as well as perhaps a last ride for Ben Roethlisberger.

The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions. Right now, they lack answers. They know that they have Roethlisberger for one more year, but was that even the right decision? How successful can Najee Harris be behind a questionable offensive line? What kind of changes can Matt Canada and Adrian Klemm bring to the offense? And how can the defense retain the status quo with the losses of Bud Dupree, Steven Nelson, and Mike Hilton?

These are the sorts of questions we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football is a year-round pastime and there are always questions to ask, though there is rarely a concrete answer. This is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all of their uncertainty.

Question: Who will log more defensive snaps during the 2021 season: Robert Spillane or Vince Williams?

Following the conversation going on in yesterday’s somewhat contentious stock evaluation for Robert Spillane, I thought it would be worth exploring where we stand relative to Spillane and Vince Williams as it pertains to playing time in 2021.

While it seems reasonable that this may be Williams’ final season before he chooses to retire, I don’t think that necessarily translates to his playing a secondary role. Barring the 2019 season, he has been averaging about 65-70 percent of the snaps per game he’s played in since Lawrence Timmons left.

Spillane filled in ably when Devin Bush went down over a span of seven games. He greatly raised his stock, from a fringe special teamer to a legitimate potential buck linebacker. But the Steelers were already happy with their buck, and Williams is still here. Even if they did make him a salary cap casualty.

And so the question is a simple one. Without respect to injuries possibly being a factor, who plays more snaps on defense this year between Robert Spillane and Vince Williams? Is one of them going to be a starter, while the other is a backup? Or will they platoon at the buck position? Will either of both of them find themselves giving way at times to rookie linebacker Buddy Johnson?

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