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Farabaugh: Why the Steelers Must Remove Robert Spillane as Dime LB

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Robert Spillane is not having the season that he has wanted up to this point. The Steelers linebacker is working double duty as both the base linebacker and more importantly, the dimebacker.

Time and time again, Spillane has been roasted on key third downs. The latest time was against the Cincinnati Bengals when Spillane was stiff armed by Samaje Perine in man coverage. It is evident that Spillane in coverage just is not the answer for the Steelers in the middle of their defense.

”I just have to make that tackle,” Spillane said. “Really, need to get back in the lab and work on my technique.”

That’s the type of emphatic statement that one would expect out of Spillane at this juncture. Myles Jack and Devin Bush have been far from perfect in coverage, but has Spillane done enough to earn the dimebacker job?

Spillane has never been challenged for dimebacker job from the outset of the season. He started camp as the dimebacker and has been playing there ever since. Jack and Bush have been better in coverage. Spillane makes splash plays but is often beat for completions on critical downs. If teams keep targeting Spillane in the middle of the field in these situations, isn’t it time to look elsewhere?

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I think it is past time that the Steelers look elsewhere for contributions at dimebacker. Spillane is who he is. That is a solid run defender who makes good tackles in between the tackles. But that is where he lands as a player. Is he really a three down player? Thus far in the season, he has not proven that to be the case.

Pittsburgh needs to take a look at the rotation and see if Bush or Jack, who have been far more consistent in coverage, a chance. They are versatile, much like Spillane. The Steelers may lose some of Spillane’s blitzing acumen with such a move. But that’s a fine trade off given his struggles in coverage since taking over the role.

If the Steelers can use Robert Spillane as a perfectly solid rotational piece on early downs, that is where his skillset lines up the best for this team. As a dimebacker, he feels sorely miscast into an unusual role that doesn’t fit what he does well as a player.

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