(Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Steelers free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick spoke with the media after Tuesday's OTAs practice about last season's coverage issues in regards to the inside linebacker position, and he alluded to it being a personnel problem.
“Part of it was that we were missing our two starting inside linebackers,” Fitzpatrick said. “Devin (Bush) and Spillane got hurt later in the season so we had to bring in guys that didn’t understand the playbook as well."
Devin Bush suffered a season-ending ACL injury in Week 6 against the Browns and Spillane suffered a knee injury in the loss to the Washington Football Team in Week 13 and missed the final four games of the regular season.
"Teams attacked those guys," Fitzpatrick said. "They spread them out and had the three to strength and the two to the weak side where the linebackers were and the guys we had there were new, new to the scheme, and didn’t understand the concept 110 percent and teams kind of exposed that.”
Spillane did, however, return for the wild-card playoff game against the Browns and he got exposed when in coverage against wide receiver Jarvis Landry. The unforgettable play in that game was when Spillane gave up a reception to Landry on a key third-and-2 in the fourth quarter. Spillane, of course, had no chance on the play. Three plays later, running back Nick Chubb caught a screen pass and went for a 40-yard touchdown to give the Browns a 42-23 lead with 12:32 left in the game.
The Steelers never adjusted and the Browns continued to target Landry when Spillane was covering him.
Now would have Bush held his own in coverage against Landry if he was available? He believes so and said it confidently. According to Christopher Carter of DKPittsburghSports, Bush after today's OTAs practice was asked, "Can you cover Jarvis Landry in the slot?" And Bush replied, "Yes. One hundred percent."