Steelers’ Mike Tomlin: ‘Significant’ Players Could Return Against Browns

Robert Spillane and TJ Watt

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images Robert Spillane #41 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts with teammate T.J. Watt #90 following a sack against the Washington Football Team on December 07, 2020.

On Tuesday morning, Cleveland Browns fans learned that their team would be without its head coach on Sunday, as well as a ‘significant player,’ who turned out to be offensive guard Joel Bitonio.

Later in the day, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin held a press conference in which he indicated that several “significant” Steelers players could return this Sunday.

Tomlin wasn’t referring to the four starters he “airmailed” to the postseason, those being QB Ben Roethlisberger, C Maurkice Pouncey, DE Cam Heyward, and OLB T.J. Watt. He was referring to four injured players, including two who are currently on injured reserve.

ILB Robert Spillane and OG Matt Feiler

“We … have some guys who are getting clearance to work this week, and that work this week may produce an opportunity for them. Robert Spillane is a significant one, and Matt Feiler is another significant one. The inclusion or the potential inclusion of those guys is exciting,” said Tomlin.

If you recall, Spillane injured a knee against Washington on December 7th and was placed on injured reserve on December 12th. Feiler suffered a pectoral injury against the Buffalo Bills on December 13th, and was placed on IR a day later.

Tomlin also indicated that two other players who have been week-to-week might also get a chance to go against the Browns.

SS Terrell Edmunds and K Chris Boswell

“Some of the guys who maybe missed [the season finale] because of lack of health–Terrell Edmunds and Chris Boswell, for example–may get an opportunity to work their way back into the fold, and we should anticipate that,” said Tomlin.

“Hopefully, it produces some difficult challenges for us in terms of selecting who to utilize this weekend,” added Tomlin. “The inclusion or the potential inclusion of those guys is exciting, but it also creates some challenges from a decision-making standpoint, because we feel like we have some options. The guys who played in place of some of those guys have done good work for us. That’s a good problem to have as we prepare this week.”

More than anything, though, Tomlin seemed pleased at the prospect of having inside linebackers Avery Williamson, Vince Williams, Robert Spillane and Marcus Allen available all at the same time.

“It provides quality depth at some of the core special teams positions where linebacker play is a significant component,” said Tomlin. “Forget defense. Having quality depth at that position fills very, very important roles in the special teams phase as well, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that.”

K Matthew Wright

Tomlin also indicated that he’s “comfortable” with calling on practice squad placekicker Matthew Wright, if it turns out Boswell (groin) can’t play for a third consecutive week.

“He’s putting the ball through the uprights, and that’s Job No. 1,” offered Tomlin. “We’ll support him in the kickoff coverage area with quality coverage if need be. Boswell’s participation over the course of the week and the quality of it will determine whether or not he is in uniform on Sunday.”

But compared to the injury situation in Pittsburgh in recent weeks, Tomlin likes the direction things are headed.

“I know having a plethora of capable guys is not a detriment to us as we get into this single-elimination tournament,” concluded Tomlin.

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