The Steelers head to Cleveland for a massive AFC North battle this weekend.
A constant theme this whole week of preparation has been on the Browns’ dominant running game. Coach Tomlin and a few of the players have talked about that in their press conferences this week.
At free safety, Minkah Fitzpatrick has a large responsibility on his hands for Sunday. The Browns have been the league’s second-most run-heavy offense in the league, running it 49.89% of plays from scrimmage. That allows them to open up the play action game, something Fitzpatrick talked about in his press conference.
“It just forces you to have good eyes,” Fitzpatrick said Thursday after practice in audio provided by the team. “Forces you to play with a little more patience. It’s also tough to do that when you got a team that likes to run the ball.”
The Browns are near the top in the league play action usage. Fitzpatrick meanwhile is still searching for his first interception of the year. Despite that, he knows he must remain patient. That concept of patience is specifically important this weekend, as one misstep can result in a long Browns play.
”They do the play action off of it because they want you to step up and bite on it so they [can] put the ball over your head. It just forces you to have good eyes and play with a little more depth.”
Fitzpatrick talked about the importance of patience at the free safety position. It’s perhaps the most important trait for the position and is what separates the good free safeties from the great ones.
“You could look at one thing and you step up, one little step, and now there’s somebody over top of you. That happened to me this year. I was looking at the wrong thing. It was literally because I took one wrong step.”
Fitzpatrick is presumably referring to Henry Ruggs’ costly 61-yard TD in the Week 2 against the Raiders. He misplayed the deep ball and it wound up leading to a Steelers loss. Odell Beckham Jr. isn’t the same player he used to be, but he’s still one to be careful of this weekend. Let’s hope Fitzpatrick and co. avoid mistakes like those against the Browns.