With the 2022 new league year, the questions will be plenty for quite a while, even as the Pittsburgh Steelers spend cash and cap space and use draft picks in an effort to find answers. We don’t know who the quarterback is going to be yet—even if we have a good idea. How will the offensive line be formulated? How will the secondary develop amid changes, including to the coaching staff? What does Teryl Austin bring to the table—and Brian Flores? What will Matt Canada’s offense look like absent Ben Roethlisberger?
These sorts of uncertainties are 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).
Topic Statement: Robert Spillane will still have a sub-package role in the defense in 2022.
Explanation: For whatever reason, the Steelers decided that Spillane was their best inside linebacker for the dime defense, even though Devin Bush and Joe Schobert were the more athletic players. Bush should be healthier this year, and Schobert was replaced by Myles Jack, who is even more athletic.
It didn’t make a whole lot of sense last year from an athletic standpoint for the Steelers to decide to make Spillane their dime linebacker, so that shouldn’t be a factor in this year’s lineup, either. They obviously like more than just his athleticism for that role, including, perhaps, his blitzing ability.
It was also simply a way for the coaches to get a player that they like on the field. They still seem to believe that he has borderline starting ability, and frankly, if Bush doesn’t show significant improvement this year, Spillane will probably be starting over him before the season is over, anyway.
Last year’s starters were a player who wasn’t fully healthy coming back from an ACL tear and another player who was added in August and wasn’t up on the defense yet. Neither of them ever really looked all that comfortable at any point last season.
Spillane, meanwhile, was the most veteran player with in-game experience behind them, and was projected to be a starter before they traded for Schobert, so it wasn’t a huge surprise when they started getting him on the field.
This year, however, things will be different. Not only is Jack more suited to dime coverage, but he’ll have a full offseason to integrate himself. There’s no reason to think he won’t be the every-down backer on this team, unless Bush proves that he deserves that role, and if that is the case, then they have a good problem on their hands.