Robert Spillane, an undrafted free-agent inside linebacker from Western Michigan in 2018, first became a Pittsburgh Steeler in 2019.
Spillane, the grandson of 1953 Heisman Award winner and former Steeler, Johnny Lattner, was mostly a special teams contributor through October of last year before finally getting his chance to start in the wake of a season-ending ACL injury suffered by Devin Bush in a game against the Browns at Heinz Field.
Derrick Henry, a running back from college-football powerhouse, Alabama, first gained national prominence when he won the 2015 Heisman Trophy.
However, it wasn’t until the 2019/2020 NFL playoffs when the 2016 second-round pick became a bit of a mythical legend; the 247-pound nightmare crushed the souls of every defensive player from New England to Baltimore while carrying the Titans to the AFC Championship Game.
Henry, the 2019 rushing leader, continued his dominant ways during the 2020 regular season, leading the NFL in rushing, once again, while also helping Tennessee punch its ticket to the postseason for a second-straight year.
But there was one soul Henry could not crush in 2020, and that was the one that belonged to Spillane, who got his first career start in a game against the Titans at Nissan Stadium on October 25.
Early in the fourth quarter, and with the Steelers clinging to a 27-17 lead, Pittsburgh’s defense faced the impossible task of keeping Henry and the Titans out of the end zone on third and goal from the one. Perhaps Cameron Heyward and Co. could have kept a mere mortal out of the end zone. However, there’s nothing mere about Henry’s immortality.
Who would man up and save the day for the Steelers and their nation of followers? It was Spillane who accepted this mission and stepped into the hole that Henry thought would be there as he took the handoff from quarterback Ryan Tannehill and headed straight up the middle.
It was the collision heard ‘round the world. Henry wasn’t a machine; he was a man! As for Spillane, he was a little worse for wear, but it didn’t matter. A legend was born.
Soon, fans began to call Spillane their favorite as they basked in the glow of his amazing feat. “I’ll never forget where I was when Spillane smacked Henry,” millions would say.
As for the Steelers, they went on to win, 27-17...or did they?
The truth has finally been revealed. What Steelers fans don’t want you to know is that Spillane, a man who many even started to follow on Twitter because of this hit (a true sign that you’ve made it in life), did not totally save the day. Why? Because Minkah Fitzpatrick, that pathetic excuse for a safety, was called for holding on the very next play; the Titans had new life and quickly scored a touchdown to pull to within three points.
It was a scary final 10 minutes; Pittsburgh hung on for dear life and ultimately needed a missed field goal with mere seconds left to walk away with a victory.
I realize this revelation may be a jolt to your system, especially if you’ve been playing Spillane’s hit over and over again since it first happened. But the truth must be known.
Spillane pulled a Carlton Fisk. That’s right, he hit a home run to win Game 6 of the World Series, but there was still one more victory to secure.
He pulled a Bart Scott. I’m sorry you had to read that, but it’s true. Spillane’s hit was nothing more than a CAN’T WAIT!!!!!!! in tackle form. Unfortunately for Scott, his Jets apparently couldn't wait to lose to the Steelers the following week with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.
Spillane’s hit on Henry was the Raiders’ Sea of Hands game from the 1974 divisional playoffs. You read that right; legend even has it that Titans’ head coach Mike Vrabel huddled with his team after the hit and said: “The Steelers act like they won the damn Super Bowl on third down. Well, I’m here to tell you that the Super Bowl won’t be played until February and the best damn team in football is here in this stadium.”
One might even say that Spillane’s hit was the Immaculate Reception in tackle form...
Again, sorry to have to break this to you, but there are four downs in football, and Spillane’s hit occurred with one more to go.
It’s an ugly truth, but it’s one that will ultimately wind up on a website linked to the bottom of another website. You don't want this dark secret revealed to the world during a 27-page slideshow, do you?
I didn't think so.