Injury forced the Pittsburgh Steelers to swap out players who fill one of their most prominent special-teams roles.
Rookie Ulysees Gilbert was placed on injured reserve this week because of a back ailment, so Robert Spillane was promoted from the practice squad to the 53-man roster. Each is an inside linebacker by trade, but with that being perhaps the deepest position on the team, defense is not where they will make their mark.
Gilbert, though, played more special-teams snaps than anyone on the Steelers. So it’s a not-insignificant role that Spillane must fill.
“What I am looking at is, don’t just go out there and be a player — but go out there and be a standout player,” Spillane said. “Find a way to stand out on special teams, find a way to make a play. That’s my goal.”
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) August 26, 2019
Part of the Western Michigan Cotton Bowl team, Spillane made the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted free agent last season and appeared in two regular-season games. The Steelers signed Spillane to a reserve/future deal in January, and he fit in well at training camp. But with three starters for two inside linebacker spots in Devin Bush, Mark Barron and Vince Williams, in addition to veteran reserve/special teamer Tyler Matakevich and an intriguing rookie in Gilbert, Spillane was relegated to the practice squad to start the season.
He was out of the organization altogether for two weeks when the Steelers needed depth at tight end and a Lamar Jackson clone for practice. But in a four-week span was signed back to the practice squad and now the 53-man active roster.
“My role right now is to be ready whenever the team needs me, whether it’s been practicing throughout the year or to be activated like this weekend and go out there and play — and not just to play, but to perform at a very high level,” Spillane said. “I hold myself to that standard, I know especially coach Danny Smith and the defensive coaches expect me to go out there and excel so I am looking forward to this opportunity.”