It looked like it was going to be a rather rough day for veteran Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Robert Spillane, especially after the way the New Orleans Saints attacked him through the air on the final drive of the first half, resulting in a touchdown.
On the field as a starter for the Steelers Sunday at Acrisure Stadium against the Saints due to an injury to Myles Jack — who was active but not on the field — Spillane took on a sizable role for the black and gold. Outside of the rough final drive of the first half, Spillane played well enough for the Steelers defense to win, earning praise from teammates and coaches, especially for his ability to communicate clearly without Jack on the field.
Spillane took on the lead communicator role at linebacker for the Steelers Sunday and earned praise from veteran outside linebacker T.J. Watt and defensive lineman Cameron Heyward for his ability to communicate and make plays in the win, none bigger than the fourth down stop on the failed quarterback sneak from New Orleans’ Andy Dalton, resulting in a key turnover on downs.
In the win, Spillane finished with a team-high seven tackles and one tackle for a loss.
“Yeah, he is a very versatile player. He can blitz well, he can cover well as well and he’s just a good communicator also, so that’s super important,” Watt said to reporters following the win, according to video via the Steelers official Twitter page. “It’s important especially when we’re at home. It’s very loud. He did a great job today of just communicating and he’s made some big plays for us.”
Communication has been key for the Steelers defense, especially as of late with a number of key guys in and out of the lineup throughout the 2022 season. Without Jack on the field Sunday, that onus fell on Spillane, and he stepped up to the plate.
That was very encouraging and much-needed, according to Heyward, who is usually pretty hard on linebackers when it comes to a communication standpoint as they are his eyes defensively.
“You know, we put a lot of stress on our linebackers, including me. I’m the first to talk about my linebackers and get in their face and let ’em know what I need,” Heyward stated to reporters following the win, according to video via the Steelers official Twitter page. “Because communication from that position is critical. I thought they did a great job, Rob, Devin [Bush], Myles [Jack], just reverberating those calls cuz we all need ’em. And when our crowd is loud like that, they gotta be loud as well.”
Communication wasn’t an issue Sunday, which is a credit to Spillane for being prepared and ready to step up in that role.
What he showed from a communication and performance standpoint overall on Sunday isn’t a surprise to the Steelers though, especially head coach Mike Tomlin.
Tomlin has spoken highly of Spillane throughout the offseason and the early portion of the season. That praise continued Sunday after the win from the head coach.
“Rob’s a starter-like dude. We feel like we got a pair and a spare there,” Tomlin stated to reporters, according to video via Steelers.com. “We got three starting inside linebackers and he proved that today, but I think he’s continually proved that for some time.”
Though Spillane has his struggles in coverage as the dime linebacker for the Steelers, and has had issues against the run, he is capable of handling a starter-like workload as a passable linebacker. That was again the case on Sunday, and came at a crucial time for the Steelers.