Steelers Host Free Agent Linebacker

Ray Wilborn Ball State

Michael Hickey/Getty Images Luke Timian of the Indiana Hoosiers runs the ball as Josh Miller and Ray Wilborn of the Ball State Cardinals make the stop on September 15, 2018.

On Sunday Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Devin Bush suffered a torn ACL and will miss the remainder of the 2020 season. As such, the Steelers are in the market for a player who could conceivably play a similar role in the middle of the team’s defense.

Hence the news that the Steelers are visiting with safety-turned-linebacker Ray Wilborn, who is 6-foot-4 and 224 pounds out of Ball State University.


Ray Wilborn Signed with the Atlanta Falcons as an UDFA

Ray Wilborn’s first chance to make it in the NFL came with the Atlanta Falcons, who signed him in late April after he went undrafted. But he failed to make Atlanta’s opening day roster, getting waived on September 5 when the Falcons cut down to 53 players.

Then in mid-September he had a tryout with the Packers, but failed to catch on with Green Bay.

And although he played outside linebacker and safety during his last two seasons in college, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Steelers are projecting him as help at inside linebacker, not in light of how they have moved former safety Marcus Allen to ILB.

In addition, one of Wilborn’s strengths is his coverage skills. As noted by Pro Football Focus, in 2018 Wilborn allowed the lowest passer rating of any linebacker in the MAC (71.0).


Ray Wilborn’s Career at Ball State

Wilborn played both linebacker and safety during the two years he spent at Ball State. In 2018, he played OLB for the Cardinals and led the team with 83 tackles, including 10.5 tackles for loss.

In 2019, he started 12 games at safety and finished third on the team in tackles with 83 and fourth in passes defensed with six while also collecting an interception against North Carolina State.

After his senior season he went to the 2020 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl (a post-season college football all-star game for draft eligible players) where he showcased as a linebacker.


Replacing Devin Bush in the Lineup

In the meantime, the Steelers are optimistic that backup inside linebacker Robert Spillane can fill much of the void left by Bush’s absence.

Spillane played 30 snaps on defense after Bush left the game against the Browns and made five tackles.

According to Brooke Pryor of ESPN, he also wore the green dot on his helmet, responsible for the communications on defense, a role he is expected to retain.

Spillane certainly made his presence felt on this play (below), when he punished Browns tight end Austin Hooper.

Spillane entered the NFL in 2018, signing as an undrafted free agent out of Western Michigan after a tryout with the Tennessee Titans. He spent part of the 2019 season on Pittsburgh’s practice squad and was promoted to the active roster after fellow linebacker Ulysees Gilbert III went on injured reserve. Spillane contributed seven solo tackles and three assists on special teams during the final eight games of 2019. Prior to Sunday’s 38-7 win over the Browns he had one solo tackle this season.

The aforementioned Gilbert could also have a role going forward; the second-year linebacker out of Akron is on the roster but has been inactive for every game thus far this season.

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