Steelers’ Mike Tomlin Praises ‘Starter-Like’ LB, Reaches Coaching Milestone

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin

Joe Sargent/Getty Images Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on against the New Orleans Saints on November 13, 2022.

Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Robert Spillane didn’t play anything approaching a perfect game against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, as he was exposed in the passing game on several occasions. Yet he recorded a team-high seven tackles, including one tackle for loss, which was enough to earn post-game praise from his head coach, Mike Tomlin, not to mention several of his more esteemed defensive teammates.

Mike Tomlin: Robert Spillane is a ‘Starter-Like Dude’

“Rob’s a starter-like dude. We feel like we got a pair and a spare there,” said Tomlin during his post-game press conference, making reference to starters Devin Bush Jr. and Myles Jack, as well as Spillane. “We got three starting inside linebackers and we proved that today, but I think he’s continually proved that for some time.”

Coming into Sunday’s game, Spillane — who is in his fifth NFL season — had yet to start a game in 2022, but he received the lion’s share of the snaps against the Saints as starter Myles Jack (knee) was active, but didn’t see much playing time.

That said, Spillane’s defensive teammates couldn’t help but acknowledge his contributions.

“He’s a very versatile player. He can blitz well, he can cover well, and he’s just a good communicator also, so that’s super important, especially when we’re at home (as) it’s very loud,” said All-Pro outside linebacker T.J. Watt. “He did a great job today of just communicating and he’s made some big plays for us.”

Steelers defensive captain Cam Heyward pretty much echoed Watt’s thoughts, saying:

“You know, we put a lot of stress on our linebackers, including me,” began Heyward. “I’m the first to talk about my linebackers and get in their face and let em’ know what I need. Because communication from that position is critical. I thought they did a great job — Rob, Devin, Myles — just reverberating those calls cause we all need them. And when our crowd is loud like that, we gotta be loud as well.”

Spillane — a former undrafted free agent out of Western Michigan — has now appeared in 45 career games. All told, he has been credited with 146 total tackles (96 solo), with six tackles for loss, three sacks, four quarterback hits, one interception and seven passes defensed. He made a big impression on his teammates during an Oct. 2020 game in Nashville when he stopped Titans All-Pro running back Derrick Henry in his tracks on the Steelers goal line during his team’s 27-24 victory.

Spillane is working on a one-year contract that pays him $2.433 million. He is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career in 2023.

Mike Tomlin Defeated the Saints for the First Time

Sunday’s 20-10 win over New Orleans was Mike Tomlin’s first victory against the Saints in four tries. He now has at least one win over the other 31 teams in the league.

Tomlin is the 14th head coach to have beaten 31 teams, with former Saints coach Sean Payton the next-most-recent to accomplish the feat (in 2020).

Now in the middle of his 16th season as Steelers head coach, Tomlin boasts a career record of 157-91-2.