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Steelers Camp Takeaways: Spillane, Bush Still Battling at ILB (+)

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Steelers ILB Devin Bush

UNITY TWP., Pa. —  The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t hold a walkthrough on Monday, as is their usual custom on the morning before a training camp practice. Instead, the team got together to watch the film of their 2022 preseason debut against the Seattle Seahawks from Saturday night.

Then Monday afternoon, head coach Mike Tomlin set out to correct what he saw that he didn’t like. To that end, the Steelers were back in full pads on Monday, with live-tackling team run periods. The Steelers also added a two-minute drill to the end of practice.

Tomlin said on Saturday that the run defense wasn’t good enough, and he reiterated that on Monday.

“We weren’t strong enough, particularly against the run,” he said. “We didn’t tee up our situational ball well enough because we were weak against the run at times in game.”

He also said Monday at Steelers camp that he wasn’t happy with his team’s two-minute performance against the Seahawks.

“Our two-minute was not where it needed to be, offensively and defensively at the end of the half the other night,” Tomlin said. “That’s what you do during team development. You have a hardcore plan but remain light on your feet.”

The defense seemed to respond to Tomlin’s challenge, getting the better of the team drills on Monday. Of course, it helped that they had some reinforcements. For the first time all training camp, the starting defensive line of Larry Ogunjobi, Tyson Alualu and Cam Heyward all worked together. T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick, who were both held out of the preseason opener, also had big days.

There seems to be one big position battle left on the defense, and the way the team played on Saturday may have a big impact on the winner. Robert Spillane and Devin Bush continued to rotate through reps with the first team at inside linebacker, with Myles Jack largely manning the other spot.

Tomlin said there’s a chance that both of those players could end up with a role in the first-team defense, but that he’s considering their training camp a true competition for a role.

“I would imagine that if both guys are varsity in their abilities, so that there’s going to be a role for them. But make no mistake, there’s a competition component to what’s transpiring here in terms of dividing the labor up for sure.”

Both players obviously struggled against the run on Saturday as the middle cog in a team defense that gave up 6.1 yards per carry. Tomlin said they could be better in coverage, as well.

“I thought they could be a lot better, and that will be my expectation this week,” he said.

That position battle is expected to continue through training camp and possibly into the season.

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