Now that the regular season 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 have seen and are seeing over the course of the offseason and the regular season 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 reasoning. 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. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: ILB Robert Spillane
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: As the coaches talk up himself and his role, Robert Spillane returned to full practice yesterday on his way back from a knee injury.
As long as his knee allows, Robert Spillane is going to play this week, and perhaps a significant amount. That is the lesson to take away from all of the coachspeak this past week, describing a player who is set to have a larger role—for reasons that aren’t all about him.
Plain and simply, the Steelers have not gotten the level of play out of their inside linebacker position that they have needed, even with a top-10 pick and a Pro Bowler, those being Devin Bush hand Joe Schobert, respectively.
Spillane has held a sub-package role in the dime defense for most of the season, but the talk from head coach Mike Tomlin and defensive coordinator Keith Butler this week strongly make it sound as though he will be eating to snaps in other situations as well. Butler pretty much said that Bush is going to be taken off the field at times.
Tomlin also talked on Tuesday about how rookie Buddy Johnson could be in for a bigger role—but that the return of Spillane may interfere with that. So either way, it is evident that the Steelers intend to shake up the personnel on the field at the inside linebacker position, and that Spillane, if healthy, would be the greatest beneficiary of that.
The fourth-year pro injured his knee early in the Bengals game, after having come on the field for Bush, who was pulled due to poor performance. He then subsequently contracted COVID-19 on top of that, but he appears to be set to come back from both and return to the field—hopefully to make a difference in the run defense, at least.