Brian Flores On Robert Spillane: ‘He Does A Lot Of Good Things’

With growing questions regarding Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Devin Bush’s play, fellow middle linebacker Robert Spillane is gaining traction for the starting spot alongside linebacker Myles Jack. Recently hired senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach Brian Flores weighed in on what Spillane brings to the defense.

“I think he’s very versatile,” Flores said in a 93.7 The Fan interview with Jeff Hathhorn when asked about what he likes about Spillane. “I think he can play really any of the background positions. He’s smart, he’s got good awareness, I think he’s physical, and I think he can do a lot of good things. He’s totally bought in, loves to play, loves to meet. I can really say that about any of the guys in the room.”

When Spillane’s name comes up, it’s hard not to think back to his 2020 goal line stop against Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry. Spillane, who began his Steelers career on the practice squad in 2019, is now in contention with the aforementioned Bush for the starting spot. Spillane was slated to start alongside Bush in the 2021 season, but saw the team trade for linebacker Joe Schobert from the Jacksonville Jaguars to occupy the role, presumably due to concerns about his pass coverage.

Flores, a former Head Coach for the Miami Dolphins, was widely expected to improve the linebacker play for the team from 2021, particularly for Bush. Flores had praise for both players, but did continue to endorse the idea of having co-starters.

“I think it’s always good to have as many good players as we can have,” Flores continued when asked whether it’s bad to have co-starters. “That’s what we’re looking for.”

Assuming that 2022 free agent signee Myles Jack will start at one of the two middle linebacker positions, the competition for the other spot is between Bush and Spillane. Flores’ answer, as well as the team listing both players as co-starters in the initial depth chart, cement that there is indeed a competition between the two. Granted, it’s hard to imagine Bush losing the starting role. However, after a less-than-stellar showing in the preseason debut, winning the job may not be a lay-up for Bush. The fact is, Bush still needs to prove that his poor play in the 2021 season was an outlier, and that he has fully recovered from his 2020 ACL tear.

In order for this team to be successful in 2022, the defense must improve upon being ranked at the bottom of the NFL in defending the run. As seen in the 2021 season, poor run defense can have high ramifications for the offense and make it difficult to win games. The middle linebacker position is significant for run defense, and whoever starts alongside Jack must be a willing and capable run defender.

Whether he is in competition for a starting job or not, it is easy to root for Spillane, as his career arc undoubtedly required a great degree of hard work and commitment. Challenging a recent top-10 pick for his starting job, let alone one for which the team made a rare trade-up, is impressive for any undrafted free agent. Whether Spillane’s career trajectory will improve against the pass and overall remains to be seen. If he does, he may just see himself starting alongside Jack this September against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1.

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