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Steelers All 91: LB Robert Spillane

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All 91 is a Pittsburgh Steelers Now series profiling each of the 91 members of the Steelers 2019 training camp roster.

49 • Robert Spillane first-year linebacker

Last year: Played in two games for the Tennessee Titans and four weeks Tennessee’s practice squad after signing as a UDFA out of Western Michigan. Signed with the Steelers in February.

Stats: Did not record a stat in his two regular season games. Had 25 tackles in four games with one start in the 2018 preseason. Also defended two passes and had an interception.

Accolades, Highlights:

Camp outlook: Spillane enters a loaded Steelers linebackers room and doesn’t have an obvious position, either. He’s worked inside in the spring, but it’s a deep group there behind Mark Barron, Devin Bush, Tyler Matakevich and Vince Williams.

Projected role: Spillane is likely battling fellow first-year ‘backer Tegray Scales for a practice squad spot.

Coverage links

Steelers sign LB Robert Spillane and RB Malik Williams

The rest of the 91:

Steelers

Steelers WR Chase Claypool Named to PFWA NFL All-Rookie Team

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Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool has been named to the 2020 Pro Football Writers of America NFL All-Rookie team.

Claypool was honored along with Minnesota Vikings wideout Justin Jefferson as the top 2020 rookies at the position. 

The Notre Dame product caught 62 passes for 873 yards and nine touchdowns this season. He also rushed for a pair of scores, tying Louis Lipps for the most touchdowns scored by a Steelers rookie with 11 total.

Claypool was the 11th wide receiver selected in the 2020 NFL Draft when the Steelers took him with the 49th overall selection. 

Claypool previously won the Joe Greene Great Performance Award as the Steelers’ rookie of the year.

This is the second straight season the Steelers had a PFWA All-Rookie member, as linebacker Devin Bush was a part of the 2019 squad. Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and linebacker T.J. Watt were awarded in 2017.

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NFL

Report: NFL Salary Cap Expected around $180 Million; Would Put Steelers $35 Million in Red

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The 2021 NFL salary cap is expected to be around $180 million, according to a report by Mike Florio of NBC Sports.

The salary cap is supposed to be fixed at 48% of the league’s revenue, according to the CBA signed between the league and the NFLPA that went into effect in March, with a possible increase if the NFL makes the expected decision to go to a 17-game schedule this fall.

But after the COVID-19 pandemic cost teams the vast majority of ticket sales in 2020, the league’s revenue has cratered heading into this offseason. The NFL and NFLPA agreed in their return-to-play negotiations that the 2021 salary cap will not fall below $175 million.

But that figure would represent a $23.2 million salary cap decrease instead of the typically expected $10 million or so increase, putting many teams, and the Pittsburgh Steelers in particular, in a salary cap crunch.

Florio said that some owners would like to see the impacts of the pandemic spread out over several years of cap impacts to reduce the immediate decrease, but that other owners see that as an interest-free loan to the players and balked.

While the most desirable of free agents will likely not be impacted, the number of teams in a cap crunch would likely cause middle-tier free agents to be unable to cash in on their expected paydays and low-tier free agents could be forced to re-sign for minimal, if any, raises.

The Steelers would need to trim approximately $35 million from their current salary obligations to be compliant with a $180 million cap, according to salary cap analysis from F.S. Fisher of Steelers Now.

While the $5 million in extra room would be helpful, it would not change the fundamental approach the Steelers will have to take this offseason of restructuring, negotiating pay cuts or releasing players already under contract for 2021.

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Steelers

PFF Tabs Steelers OLB Alex Highsmith as 2021 Breakout Candidate

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Pro Football Focus has released their breakout candidates for the 2021 season and believes Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Alex Highsmith is in for a big year.

Highsmith was thrust into the starting lineup following fellow edge rusher Bud Dupree’s season-ending injury, and showed a knack for causing disruption and making plays.

The rookie finished his 2020 campaign with 48 combined tackles, two sacks, five tackles-for-loss, six quarterback hits and an interception. According to PFF, Highsmith recorded 22 total pressures on 224 pass-rushing snaps.

With Dupree likely moving on from the Steelers in free agency this offseason, Highsmith is primed to be the Week 1 starter opposite T.J. Watt.

Elsewhere around the AFC North, PFF likes Baltimore Ravens defensive lineman Justin Madubuike, Cincinnati Bengals tight end Drew Sample and Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to have big years as well.

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