Player: Robert Spillane
Position: Inside Linebacker
Experience: 3 Years
Free Agent Status: Restricted
2021 Salary Cap Hit: $850,000
2021 Season Breakdown:
Entering his third season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Robert Spillane was preparing for a starting role before the team suddenly threw a curveball his way with the trade acquisition of Joe Schobert, a long-time veteran starter and even a former Pro Bowler.
With Vince Williams retiring just before the start of training camp, it looked like the path was clear for Spillane to settle into the buck role next to Devin Bush, after playing in Bush’s mack spot for much of the previous season when Bush tore his ACL.
That probably would have been the best-case scenario for him, but it didn’t really work out that way. Still, the coaching staff did show that they like him. They even made him their dime linebacker, with the coaches taking both Bush and Schobert off the field and putting Spillane on—which seemed to perplex almost everybody.
For the season, he played 346 snaps, plus another 244 on special teams, registering 56 tackles in 14 games with four starts. Considering he often played in passing situations, it is interesting that he didn’t even get a single pass defensed, though.
Truth be told, he looked better in 2020, but then again, he was also playing behind a healthy Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu in 2020. He is the sort of player, like Mason Rudolph, that you live with if you have to go into a season starting, but which you don’t plan on. Which is why they traded for Schobert.
Free Agency Outlook:
We wrapped up our coverage of all of the Steelers’ projected unrestricted free agents yesterday by looking at Chukwuma Okorafor, so the remaining handful of players left to cover will be restricted free agents or exclusive rights free agents. I would have started with the biggest in Dwayne Haskins, but we covered him earlier in the day.
Spillane is an interesting decision, which could tie into what they do with Schobert. If they release Schobert, it greatly increases the chances that the Steelers would sign Spillane to a restricted tender, and then they would have to decide at what level.
In 2022, an original-round tender costs $2,433,000. Spillane was a former undrafted free agent, however, so they would get no compensation if a team were to sign him; they would only get the chance to match the contract.
The next-highest level is a second-round tender, and the price jumps up to $3,986,000. That’s a price you might be willing to pay if you think he’s going to be a starter, and he would be in line for that if Schobert is let go.
But they could also instead work out a new contract, a multi-year deal, with the value being more favorable to the team. He likely commands at least a couple million a year if he is a defender they intend to use, like when they gave B.J. Finney a second-round tender in 2019, which at the time was a little over $3 million.