Now that training camp is here with the Pittsburgh Steelers back in Latrobe and gearing up for what they hope will be a much more productive season, it’s time to take stock of where the team stands. Specifically, where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of training camp and the preseason and the regular season as it plays out. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning for each one. 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: The Steelers have been giving a lot of first-team snaps to veteran inside linebacker Robert Spillane, who has been rotating in at both the spots of Devin Bush and Myles Jack. Spillane earned sub-package and later rotational snaps last year, and the team continues to appear interested in seeing how much he can contribute.
The Steelers have drafted for depth at inside linebacker for the past two years, taking Buddy Johnson in the fourth round in 2020 and Mark Robinson in the seventh round in April. But it’s fourth-year veteran Robert Spillane who has been seeing the bulk of the opportunities for increased playing time.
The former college free agent has been playing a lot of snaps with the Steelers’ first-team defense, alternately occupying the spot of either Devin Bush or Myles Jack, the presumptive starters in the middle for Pittsburgh.
Spillane has seen over 700 snaps on defense over the past two seasons, which could have potentially been over 1,000 if not for injuries robbing him of seven games’ worth of action over that time. He recorded 101 tackles during that time (including special teams work) as well as two sacks and an interception.
Originally signed by the Tennessee Titans in 2018, Spillane joined Pittsburgh the following year, spending the first half of the season on the practice squad until a back injury suffered by Ulysees Gilbert III opened up a roster spot. He made an immediate name for himself on special teams and has seen steady employment since.
One thing that you have to admit about Spillane is that he is a dedicated and driven worker. On the first day of camp, he talked about exploring all avenues available to him to try to become a better football player, using means that he called “unorthodox”, training in ways that might not be intuitively obviously beneficial for a linebacker.
While he may have some top-end physical limitations in terms of how fast he can run, how fluid his hips are, and how high he can jump, he knows how to control what he can control and to get the most out of his skillset. He is increasingly exploring ways to do that, and his playing time thus far is a reflection of the coaching staff seeing the results of that.