Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2022 season is over, the team finishing above .500 but failing to make the postseason, we turn our attention to the offseason and everything that means. One thing that it means is that some stock evaluations are going to start taking on broader contexts, reflecting on a player’s development, either positively or negatively, over the course of the season. Other evaluations will reflect only one immediate event or trend. The nature of the evaluation, whether short-term or long-term, will be noted in the reasoning section below.
Player: ILB Robert Spillane
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: The four-year veteran inside linebacker has continued to improve his standing within the Steelers’ pecking order at the position, finishing the 2022 season as a full-time starter and logging every snap over the course of the final four games. The group could be heading for significant change this offseason, and he could potentially benefit from it.
This one might not go over too well, or perhaps draw mixed reactions at best, but I think it’s reasonable to argue that inside linebacker Robert Spillane did himself a lot of good this past season. In spite of the fact that the Steelers have twice acquired players to start ahead of him (Joe Schobert in 2021 and Myles Jack in 2022), he still finds his way onto the field.
In fact, since about midway into the 2021 season or so he’s had a steady role as a dime coverage linebacker, as counterintuitive as that might sound on the surface. And truth be told, it hasn’t always been to his advantage.
That’s particularly an issue when he draws man coverage assignments. While he can move around the field, he’s not exactly the most fleet of foot, no matter how much he works to improve his speed. His strength is in his football intelligence, which suits a zone coverage scheme.
A textbook overachiever, Spillane clawed his way into relevance as a college free agent out of Western Michigan, where he played with Chukwuma Okorafor. He cut his teeth on special teams before finding his postcard moment by colliding in the hole against ‘King Henry’ on a goal-line play.
Jack was limited due to injury through much of the late stretch of the season, and that provided Spillane with greater access to playing time. He took advantage of that, playing over 200 snaps in the final four games of the season and never coming off the field.
He played nearly 600 defensive snaps in total, missing one game due to injury, posting a career-high 79 tackles with four tackles for loss, plus a sack and four passes defensed. With Devin Bush unlikely to return in free agency and there being at least some question as to whether or not the Steelers are comfortable with Jack at a base salary of $8 million in 2023, Spillane could finally be the beneficiary of the musical chairs in the room.