There is a reason that, football is often called the ultimate team sport. There is perhaps no other collaborative game in the mainstream in which it’s so inextricably important that everybody on the field knows what the other is doing.
We often hear words like chemistry, communication, and others to provide some sense of the relationship that members of a unit share when they’re on the field together. They all have their individual role within a broader system. For the best results, each player must all execute their own assignment in correspondence with everybody else executing theirs.
Fortunately for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the inside linebackers believe they have that communication down—even Robert Spillane with Devin Bush, who have logged a whopping eight snaps on the field together, and who may be playing a lot more simultaneously this year.
“We’ve been working through walkthroughs as well, which is good for our communication on-field”, Spillane said of re-familiarizing himself with Bush. “But one thing that me and Devin also have is communication off the field. We’ve been talking about this since the end of last season. We have an understanding with each other, and we understand each other’s skillsets”.
Bush, a 2019 first-round pick, is the Steelers’ every-down mack linebacker. Spillane entered the 2020 season, a former undrafted free agent, with no defensive playing time experience, but as the top backup inside linebacker. When Bush went down in Week 6, Spillane primarily took over his role—until suffering an injury himself.
This year, Spillane will be playing next to Bush, rather than in place of, in some type of combination with Vince Willliams at the buck position. He and Williams got a lot of field time together last year, but he understands there can be some kinks in his communication with Bush due to that lack of reps.
But he’s not concerned. “I know that we’ll figure out anything that goes on throughout the season, as any two normal inside linebackers do”, he told reporters. “We’ll figure it out”.
Much of that will take place over the coming months, next week in minicamp, and then in August during training camp and the preseason, but a lot must be learned in the live-fire action of a meaningful game. The more time you put in together, the better you understand each other’s nuances and preferences.
Spillane strikes me as a complementary player, in the sense that he will adapt to whomever he is playing with. As Ryan Clark did for Troy Polamalu, he will figure out what Bush likes to do, any play accordingly. I’m frankly not too worried about them working together, at least once they sort everything out.