Don't doubt the 'Mick'

Robert Spillane has been splashy since taking over for Devin Bush at inside linebacker, from a goal-line stuff of running back Derek Henry in Tennessee to a first-series pick-six last Sunday in Baltimore, but the Steelers' defense has also been more susceptible to big-play runs.

Defensive coordinator Keith Butler credits Spillane for the former and considers the latter circumstantial.

"It's not him," Butler maintained regarding Spillane. "I know there's a lot of people that might think that it's him but it's not just him.

"'Mick' (Spillane) has done a good job of being at the right place at the right time. He's a very coachable guy and he makes plays. He's usually at the right place at the right time most of the time, but like everybody else, every now and then he's gonna mess up."

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The Steelers consider a big-play run a carry of 15 yards or more.

They allowed two of those in the first four-and-a-half games this season (through halftime of the Steelers' 38-7 victory on Oct. 18 over Cleveland).

Since Spillane took over for Bush late in the first half of the Cleveland game, the Steelers have surrendered six runs of 15 or more yards.

Four of those occurred against the Ravens, including three that went for 20 or more, on the way to a 265-yard output for Baltimore on the ground.

"We can't live life like that," Butler said. "If you look at the last game, that's where most of the run yards came. We tried to defend the outside guys a little bit and they cut it up inside. Most of the dadgum runs were cut-backs to the inside. We asked 'Mick' to scrape outside sometimes and they cut it behind him.

"It wasn't his fault. Some of it was the defense that we called. Some of it was that we weren't in the right place at the right time."

The Steelers reinforced inside linebacker when they swung a trade with the Jets for Avery Williamson, a veteran of 81 career NFL starts, including one last Sunday against Kansas City.

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But Williamson wasn't brought to Pittsburgh to fill a perceived deficiency among starters at the position, Butler said.

"I think we got two pretty good linebackers inside," Butler said. "He's gonna add a lot of depth to us when he comes in. How much we use him will depend on how fast he can learn in terms of our terminology, which I think it won't be hard for him. When he gets in we'll get a good idea where he fits in.

"We hope to get him in this weekend. I hope we don't have to play him this weekend but you never know. If you get injuries you have to put people in and that could happen. Right now we just hope to get him in this weekend and get him started and get him used to and acclimated to the people around him. It's going to take him a little while."

As for the reference to Spillane as 'Mick,' in honor of crime novelist Mickey Spillane, "everybody calls him that," Butler said. "He's a good kid, man. We love him and we think the world of him. He doesn't say a lot. He talks on the field like he should. He makes plays. He's in the right place at the right time.

"How many people have you seen jack up the dude from Tennessee (Henry) like he jacked him up a couple games ago? First defensive series, we're playing the dadgum Ravens, he picks it off and goes down for a touchdown.

"That doesn't surprise us. That might surprise a lot of other people, it doesn't surprise us because that's what he's been doing in practice. He's where he's supposed to be when he's supposed to be there."