Player: Robert Spillane
Position: Inside Linebacker
Experience: 4 Years
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2022 Salary Cap Hit: $2,433,000
2022 Season Breakdown:
The past three years for Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Robert Spillane haven’t really been incredibly different, varying primarily based on his participation level due to health—both for himself and for others.
The 2022 season offered the greatest balance in his favor between his health and the health of others at his position, which helped produce greater opportunities and thus a career year. Logging 588 defensive snaps—more than 300 more than in any other season—he produced 79 tackles with four for loss, along with a sack, two hits, and four passes defensed, one of which directly saved a touchdown.
The Steelers have sought ways to get Spillane onto the field for the past two seasons, first employing him as a sub-packages, dime linebacker during the 2021 season and continuing that role this past year, in spite of the fact that he is not overly athletic or quick.
Yet he finished the season as a full-time starter, playing every snap, something he has expressed the desire to continue to do, in Pittsburgh, now that he is set to hit the open market for the first time in his career. The Steelers have a number of decisions to make at the position.
Free Agency Outlook:
And that brings us to the free agency outlook part of the conversation, starting with Myles Jack. Signed to a two-year, $16 million contract in 2022, the first question they have to answer is whether or not they are willing to pay him $8 million to play in 2023. And if the answer is no, do you cut him, or try to sign him to an extension that lowers his cap hit? And why would he sign an extension with a lower new-money average, anyway? If they don’t want to pay him $8 million, they will probably have to cut him.
The Steelers have seemingly already made their decision on Devin Bush, a conversation we’ve had a few times already and one we’ll have in this series in a bit. That leaves Spillane as the last big fish to reel in and what it would take to do so.
He played under an original-round restricted free agent tender last year of a little over $2.4 million. But what is his relative value if they are looking to re-sign him as a starter? And how do other teams around the league feel about him? Would anybody even consider kicking the tires on him as a potential starter?
Perhaps one name we can consider is L.J. Fort. He signed a three-year, $5.5 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2019. They cut him later that year, but then the Ravens picked him up and signed him by the end of the season to a two-year extension also worth $5.5 million.
Fort had many similarities as a player to Spillane, the biggest difference being that Spillane has gotten a lot more opportunities to play. It’s not unreasonable to think that the Steelers might have to pay him at least a few million a year to keep him around as a starter.