The Pittsburgh Steelers entered their Week 17 matchup against the Cleveland Browns with one thing in mind more than anything else: Get healthy for the playoffs. The Steelers sat four of their captains as healthy scratches as well as Terrell Edmunds and Chris Boswell who were nursing injuries.
While trying to keep the players currently on the 53-man roster as healthy as possible seemed to be accomplished in Week 17, the Steelers also have the opportunity to get two players back who have been out due to injury in time for the start of the postseason. Mentioned on Tuesday by Mike Tomlin and his weekly press conference, the Steelers have officially announced inside linebacker Robert Spillane and offensive lineman Matt Feiler will return to practice on Wednesday.
G Matt Feiler & LB Robert Spillane will practice today but both remain on the Reserve/Injured List.— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 6, 2021
We have 21 days to activate Feiler and/or Spillane to the 53-man roster.https://t.co/frl0uELceQ
While returning to the practice field is an important step in either player’s return, it does not necessarily mean they will be active and available for Sunday night’s Wild Card match up with the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field. Wednesday began a 21-day period in which the Steelers have to activate each player to the 53-man roster or else they will revert back to the Reserve/Injured List for the remainder of the season. Since neither player is on the active roster, they will not appear on the teams injury reports until activated.
Robert Spillane was placed on the Reserve/Injured List on Saturday, December 12 just ahead of the Steelers Week 14 game against the Buffalo Bills. Injured the previous Monday against the Washington Football Team, Spillane went onto IR as Ulysees Gilbert came off. Unfortunately, Gilbert has since landed back on the injured list.
Filling in for the injured Devin Bush when he went down in Week 6 against the Cleveland Browns, Spillane only had eight defensive snaps on the season before Week 6. Once Bush was lost for the season, Spillane started the next seven games playing at least 75% of the defensive snaps up until he injured his knee against Washington. On the season, Spillane has 2.0 sacks, 45 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 3 quarterback hits, 4 passes defensed, a fumble recovery, and an interception returned 33 yards for a touchdown. In Spillane’s absence, players such as Marcus Allen and Avery Williamson have been called on to take larger rolls at the inside linebacker position.
Matt Feiler went on the Reserve/Injured List for the Steelers two days after Spillane which was the morning following the Steelers Week 14 loss to the Buffalo Bills and was replaced on the roster by Cassius Marsh. Out with an injured pec, Feiler luckily did not require surgery. Feiler had started all 13 games for the Steelers at left guard in 2020 after following a 2019 season where he started 15 games at right tackle and one game at left guard.
When it comes to the return of Feiler, it will be very interesting to see how the Steelers would implement him into the lineup should he be activated. Although both were out in Week 15 against the Cincinnati Bengals due to injury, rookie Kevin Dotson started the final two games of the season and played 100% of the snaps in each game where he performed quite well. On the season, Dotson has not allowed a sack and only one quarterback pressure on over 350 offensive snaps. Whether or not the Steelers would go back to Feiler or stick with Dotson would be the main question going in to Sunday night’s game.
If the Pittsburgh Steelers are dealing with making tough decisions on how to divide playing time due to a number of good options, and they have entered the 2020 postseason in the right way. With the Cleveland Browns missing several players and a majority of their offensive coaching staff due to COVID-19 issues, the Steelers are grateful for the multiple options they have at some positions for the time being if both Feiler and Spillane are able to return this week.
Stay tune to BTSC for continued coverage as the Steelers prepare to take on the Cleveland Browns this Sunday night at Heinz Field in the Wild Card Round of the NFL 2020 postseason.