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Robert Spillane Makes Critical Plays to Help Power Steelers Win



Robert Spillane

PITTSBURGH — The Steelers needed Robert Spillane to make some big plays on Sunday. With Myles Jack limited during the week due to a nagging knee injury, the Steelers decided to shorten the rotation and only use Jack in case of an emergency. Jack never played, and he got some much-needed rest from the injured knee in the game.

However, it would not be possible without the timely play of Spillane. While he struggled in coverage at times, Spillane made multiple big plays, including a pass breakup in the seam intended for Juwan Johnson and the massive 4th down tackle against Andy Dalton on a quarterback sneak. Jack got to watch Spillane come up in the crucial moments from the sideline and was not surprised in the least.

”That was huge,” Jack said. “Came over the top. Got the quarterback, leaning in … He made a couple big plays. That was huge, though. It definitely flipped the field.”

It was Spillane’s versatility that has allowed him to make so many plays and play as much as he has. The Steelers play Spillane at off-ball linebacker, off the edge, and give him plenty of coverage responsibilities. But on Sunday, he had a new responsibility — communication. With Jack out of the lineup, Spillane becomes one of the ace communicators for the Steelers at the second level of their defense. That was the area that T.J. Watt felt Spillane had the most impact in on the game.

“He’s a very versatile player,” Watt said. “He can blitz well, he can cover well as well. He’s just a good communicator also. That’s super important, especially at home. Very loud. He did a great job today of just communicating. He’s made some big plays for us.”

So, was any of this surprising to the coach who decided to start Spillane in the first place? No, not really. Mike Tomlin believes the Steelers have a spare with their pair, Jack and Devin Bush. Spillane is that third piece and over the past three seasons, Tomlin has leaned upon the reliable Spillane to fill multiple voids whenever needed. On Sunday, it was just another example of Spillane rising to that occasion.

“Rob’s a starter-like dude. We feel like we got a pair and a spare there. We got three starting inside linebackers, and he proved that today. I think he’s continually proved that for some time.”

Jack believes he will be back to full capacity next week. So, this heavy snap count duty for Spillane is likely a one-off thing. Even though he was not perfect, the Steelers got the key plays from him when they needed it the most.

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