PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) - Robert Spillane suddenly has vaulted from undistinguished NFL linebacker into the spotlight reserved for the man in the middle of the tough Steelers defense.
Devin Bush's season-ending knee injury is expected to lead to a greatly-expanded role at Tennessee this week for Spillane, a third-year player that many Steelers fans probably know little about.
"All I can do is play my game," Spillane said Monday. "I'm going to do everything I can to cover the best I can, to play run defense, to blitz, to be a three-down linebacker. I believe in myself strongly. I have confidence. I know that whoever they put out in front of me I will make a play."
Spillane replaced Bush and played the final 39 plays on defense in the win over the Browns. As "the next man up," he was credited with six tackles, one for a loss. He also was given the task of relaying the defensive signals from the sideline.
"I wore the green dot (on his helmet) when I got called into play," said Spillane, referencing how the player with the headset is identified. "For me, it's comfortable. I like speaking to my teammates pre-snap. I've gotten so comfortable with these guys over the past two years. It really feels awesome because as soon as I stepped on the field I felt my teammates trusted me."
One such teammate is cornerback Cam Sutton.
"Rob's my guy, man," Sutton said. "He really grinds. He really puts in the time and puts in the work. He's always asking questions. I'm really happy for him. I"m really excited for him."
Something that excites Spillane is the opportunity to make his first NFL start on Sunday, since he signed with the Titans as an undrafted free agent from Western Michigan and played in two games before he was released in 2018.
"You know how the NFL works," Spillane said. "It's a very fluid system. General managers and coaches have to do what they have to do. When I was down at Tennessee things didn't go as planned and they ended up releasing me. Thank God, coach Tomlin gave me an opportunity to come here and try out for this team and show the Steelers organization what I'm all about as a player."
Spillane showed what he's about off-the-field by opening his media session with unsolicited praise of Bush.
"Devin is a great teammate and a great person. He's been one of the best teammates I've ever had. The best way to support him is to go out there and (pick up) where he left off."
Incidentally, Spillane is a Steelers legacy, so to speak. His grandfather was the late Johnny Lattner, a Heisman Trophy winner at Notre Dame and first-round draft choice who played for the Steelers in 1954 before entering the Air Force. Lattner's career was ended by a knee injury during his military service.