The Pittsburgh Steelers safety still had work to do after the training camp’s on-field part that day. Together with a staff member, he worked methodically to catch dozens of balls at various angles.
Grady Brown, the defensive backs coach, frequently repeats the phrase “We are receivers as DBs. Fitzpatrick continued, sweat trickling as he gathered his breath, “We have to have a 100% catch rate, yet we catch approximately 100% less throws than what the receiver catches.
The receiver should make as many receptions as possible, whether they are straight on, distracted, or both at once. It’s crucial, in my opinion, to practise holding the ball securely with your hands.
He repeated the motions until he was happy with the number of reps: over his shoulder, to his left, to his right.
Fitzpatrick, though, is rarely content. He arrives early and leaves late at the Steelers’ practise facility and on the football field every day because of it. Because of this, he possesses the leadership qualities the Steelers require in the aftermath of T.J. Watt’s season-threatening pectoral injury.
The play of Minkah Fitzpatrick has already sparked some early NFL Defensive Player of the Year debate. Photographed by Katie Stratman for USA TODAY Sports
Fitzpatrick will need to be a focal point as a leader and a ball hawk, producing the kind of splash plays to infuse the defence with contagious energy, if the Steelers are to survive at least a month without Watt, including Thursday night’s game against the Cleveland Browns (8:15 p.m. ET, Prime Video).
During training camp, coach Mike Tomlin remarked, “Minkah is a serious competitor.” He constantly wants to join. He desires to defend receivers. Running backs are who he wants to tackle. He desires a blitz. A football player, he is. He is a football-mad man. He’s a competitive person who, gosh, is just a great guy to have around in a situation like this because he never has a bad day. He never forgets about it. He is constantly willing to work.
Fitzpatrick has performed admirably since the Steelers acquired the Miami star from Alabama for an unprecedented first-round choice. The Pittsburgh Steelers were certain that Fitzpatrick, who won two national championships in three years, could be the secondary’s rock and the replacement for feared defenders like Troy Polamalu. Fitzpatrick delivered when he picked off a pass in his NFL debut against the San Francisco 49ers. During that season, he had five interceptions in his first seven games.
He has been a big-time player ever since we acquired him on a short week heading into San Francisco, according to Tomlin. “He’s vocal, he’s intense, he’s a big-time guy,” Tomlin added. “He spoke out that week.”
Fitzpatrick recorded four interceptions in 2021, but his duties changed, as he was now primarily responsible for stopping the run. He ended with 124 tackles, which is a career high.
But after giving Fitzpatrick a four-year, $73.6 million contract this summer, the Steelers intended to position Fitzpatrick so quarterback could resume his ball-hawking antics in 2022.
Pick ’em on Monday night
Play for a chance to win $275,000 in prizes, including $15,000 per week for the highest score. Play for free! Pick Your Battles
During training camp, Teryl Austin, the defensive coordinator, observed, “Guys like him, they want to be great.” “They aim to triumph in every game. More than many other folks I’ve ever seen, he perceives the game quickly. The finest person I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with was Ed Reed. (In 2011–12, Austin served as Reed’s position coach with the Ravens.) More quickly than anyone I’ve ever played with back then, he understood the game.
It’s a special quality, and those men are amazing because of it. We simply need to get him back to making turnovers.
Fitzpatrick is doing just that after two games.
Fitzpatrick read Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow on the second defensive play of the year and jumped in front of receiver Tyler Boyd. For a pick-six, Fitzpatrick recovered the ball and returned it 31 yards to the end zone. Then, as time was out, he blocked an effort at an extra point to force overtime. He induced Mac Jones to pass over the middle to DeVante Parker against the Patriots since Parker seemed to be far better suited up against inside linebacker Robert Spillane. In an instant, Fitzpatrick launched himself in the direction of Parker to seize Jones’ pass.
Fitzpatrick’s flexibility and ability to play in all areas of the field contribute to his danger on the field. He first rejected it in Miami, but he discovered that Pittsburgh was where he was most successful in that capacity.
When others are aware of where I am, Fitzpatrick claimed, “I feel like they either decide not to go there or they plot something against me.” However, I believe that moving me about to put me in various spots will give the offence a new look. I’m not saying this on every play.
Fitzpatrick is a playmaker who exudes energy on the field, but in the locker room, he is quiet. Although Fitzpatrick is one of the team’s most active trash talkers, he stays to himself when going about his daily activities.
Running back Najee Harris, who has known Fitzpatrick since he was 18 and was his teammate at Alabama, claimed that Fitzpatrick “usually comes in with his suitcase and his notebooks ready to write.” “… He’s simply very passionate about football. He regularly stays till around 7 p.m. He always arrives later than me, and I’m here late.
Fitzpatrick had a brief career in Miami after being a much-hyped first-round choice. Icon Sportswire / Roy K. Miller
Fitzpatrick stays late at work because he considers himself to be a competitive and perfectionist. Even workaholic Harris agreed that Fitzpatrick’s dedication to his art is what most stands out about him.
Being a perfectionist on the football field is not a negative thing, according to Fitzpatrick. “I believe I get knowledge through my errors. I don’t ruminate about them.
I’ve always been that way, but I’ve also received coaching to be that way. Because I hold myself to a high level, people hold me to a high standard as well. And they checked me on anything less than that.
Even though he wasn’t formally elected captain, that combination makes him a natural leader. Fitzpatrick’s close buddy and fellow cornerback Levi Wallace, who also played with Fitzpatrick at Alabama, claimed he voted for Fitzpatrick as a captain along with Cam Heyward and T.J. Watt.
Whether he comes out there for a coin toss or not, everyone on the squad is aware that he is one of the leaders. We are aware of who he is and his contributions to the squad. He does not need to speak much because of the way he leads. It concerns his behaviour. All you need is a person like that who always pushes you without even trying. Because he is working so hard, you want to work harder.
Right now, the objective is to contribute to bridging Watt’s gap. But if he keeps up his current form, Fitzpatrick may be in contention for a significant individual award.
Terrell Edmunds, a safety, stated, “Great guys, they’re going to go out there and play great.” “He’s going to put his best foot forward and go out there. And he will undoubtedly be in the running for Defensive Player of the Year if he keeps having performances like he did [against the Bengals], which I know he can.