Steelers News

Teryl Austin Talks Up Robert Spillane’s Coverage Skills

The Pittsburgh Steelers coaching staff continues to outpace the fans when it comes to respecting inside linebacker Robert Spillane’s game in coverage. The veteran has continued to be employed as a dime linebacker with Devin Bush and (sometimes or) Myles Jack on the sidelines.

This past week, the team was even more cognizant of utilizing his skill set from a coverage point of view, and even employed him in ways intended to compensate for the loss of several starters in the secondary, which defensive coordinator Teryl Austin acknowledged on Thursday.

“Robert’s a really smart guy, really has a lot of good football sense”, he said via transcript. “When we’re doing some things as we coach in the offseason, we always talk about techniques in terms of how they’re relative to a lot of positions. There are some similarities in terms of what he does as an off-the-ball backer that sometimes the safeties do. That allowed us to move him in there and play some roles for us, so that was really good that he was able to adapt to it and help us there”.

Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he was filling Minkah Fitzpatrick’s shoes or anything, but they did not shy away from lining him up one-on-one in coverage. He even saw a couple of snaps aligned to the outside like a cornerback when the offensive matchup called for that.

Now, while Spillane gets a lot of grief, particularly for his coverage, from the fans, he must be credited with the excellent play that he made in that department in the red zone, coming up with a huge pass defensed on 2nd and 2 from the five-yard line in the third quarter. It would have been a sure touchdown if he hadn’t made the play, so that was a four-point swing.

In fact, the inside linebackers as a whole saved the Steelers 10 points with passes defensed in the red zone. Jack elevated and just barely got the tips of his fingers on a ball that rerouted its trajectory just enough to make it uncatchable on what would have otherwise been a pitch-and-catch score. And of course Bush had the excellent pass breakup at the goal line on the two-point conversion that would have tied the game at 20 with under five minutes to play.

Add up those plays—acknowledging that the Buccaneers salvaged a couple of field goals out of the deal—and that’s 10 points. In a game that they won by two points. So credit must be given to the play of the inside linebackers, including Spillane, and their work in coverage for this rare 2022 Steelers win.

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