Minka Fitzpatrick is the leader the Steelers need right now – Pittsburgh Steelers Blog

Pittsburgh – More than 45 minutes after training ended on a hot August day at St. Vincent’s College, Minka Fitzpatrick He was still in the field.

The field portion of training camp ended that day, but the safety of the Pittsburgh Steelers still had to do work. Systematically, he worked with an employee who caught dozens of balls from every angle.

“[Defensive backs] Coach Grady Brown, says it all the time, “We’re receptive as key players. Sweaty, dribbling,” Fitzpatrick said.

“It’s important to get as many shots as the receiver gets, whether it’s straight, diffracted or both at once. I think it’s important to get your hands used to securing the ball.”

over his shoulder, from his left, from his right, over and over until the actors are satisfied.

But Fitzpatrick is rarely satisfied. That’s what makes him come back to the football field and Steelers training facility every day, arriving early and leaving late. That’s what makes him the kind of leader the Steelers need in their wake TJ Watt A chest injury threatens their season.

For the Steelers to survive at least a month without Watts — including Thursday night’s game against the Cleveland Browns (8:15 p.m. ET, Prime Video) — Fitzpatrick would have to be a focal point as a captain and ball hawk, creating the kind of spray play To infuse infectious energy on the defence.

“Minca is a serious competitor,” said coach Mike Tomlin during training camp. He always wants to get in. He wants to cover the receivers. He wants to deal with running backs. He wants to attack. He’s a soccer player. He’s a guy who loves soccer. He’s a guy who likes to compete, and boy, he’s really a good guy in an environment like this because he doesn’t There’s a bad day with him. He’s always about it. He’s always ready for action.”

From the moment the Steelers dropped an unprecedented first-round pick for Alabama’s best performance from Miami, Fitzpatrick achieved. The Steelers thought Fitzpatrick, who had won two National titles in three years, could be the high school anchor—the next iteration of terrified defensive players like Troy Polamalo—and Fitzpatrick answered the bell when he collected an interception on his debut against the San Francisco 49ers. The selections came in groups that season as he scored five in his first seven games.

“He’s my voice, he’s strong, he’s a great player and he’s been since the day we acquired him in a short week to go to San Francisco. He’s been honest that week,” Tomlin said.

Fitzpatrick received four interceptions in 2021, but his responsibilities changed and his role depended largely on stopping the race. He finished with 124 high level interventions.

But after making him a safer-paid NFL this season with a $73.6 million 4-year contract, the Steelers wanted Fitzpatrick in a position to get back to his ball-playing ways in 2022.

“Guys like him want to be great,” defensive coordinator Terrell Austin said during bootcamp. “They want to win every game. …He sees the game faster than a lot of people I’ve ever seen. Ed Reed was the best I’ve ever had the ability to work with. (Austin was Reed’s center coach with the Ravens in 2011-12) He’s seen The match is faster than anyone I’ve ever played with.

“It’s a unique trait, and that’s what makes these guys great. We just have to bring him back to get his turnover back.”

Two games in, Fitzpatrick does just that.

In the second defensive play of the season, the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Fitzpatrick reads Joe Borough and jumped in front of the receiver Tyler Boyd. Fitzpatrick grabbed the ball and returned it 31 yards to the end zone to pick a six. Then force overtime by blocking an extra point attempt as time runs out. Against the Patriots, he was fed Mac Jones in the middle throw to Devante Parkerwho seemed to have a huge advantage to match the inner-back Robert Spillane. Fitzpatrick got into action, sprinting toward Parker to intercept Jones’ pass.

Part of what makes Fitzpatrick such a threat is his versatility and ability to play all over the field. It’s something he initially resisted in Miami, but found it more effective in the role in Pittsburgh.

“I feel that when people know where I am they either choose not to go there or plan something away from me,” Fitzpatrick said. “But I think it moved me to my perception, in different locations – and I’m not saying every single game – but just giving the attack a different look.”

For all the electricity that Fitzpatrick brings to the field with his playmaking, he’s quiet in the changing room. He’s among the most trash talkers on the team, but in his day to day life, Fitzpatrick keeps to himself as he goes about his routine.

“He always comes with his briefcase and notes ready to write,” he said back. Nagy Harris, who has known Fitzpatrick since he was 18 and was a teammate in Alabama. “…He is really invested in football. …He is always here until about 7pm, I am late here, and he is always here later than me.”

Fitzpatrick works late because he describes himself as perfect and competitive. Even Harris, himself a workaholic, said the most impressive thing about Fitzpatrick was his commitment to his profession.

“I don’t think being a perfectionist on the football field is a bad thing,” Fitzpatrick said. “I feel like I’m learning from my mistakes. I don’t dwell on them.

“…I’ve always been like this, but I’ve also trained to be like this. …People are raising me to a high standard because I hold to a high standard. Anything less than that, they check it out.”

This combination makes him a natural leader, even if he is not an officially elected leader. back corner Levi Wallacewho also played for Fitzpatrick in Alabama and is one of his close friends, said he voted for Fitzpatrick as captain alongside Cam Heyward and T.J. Watt.

“Everyone knows he’s one of the leaders on the team, whether he walks in there to toss a coin or not,” Wallace said. “We know who he is and what he’s doing to this team. The way he leads, he doesn’t have to talk much. It’s about his actions. Just having a guy like that, he always pushes you without trying to push you. You want to work harder because he works so hard.”

The goal now is to help fill the void left by Watt. But Fitzpatrick could be in line for a major individual honor if he continues to play at the level he has started this season.

“Great players, they are going to get out there and play great,” Safely Terrell Edmonds He said. “He will go out there and do his best to move forward. And if he keeps playing games like he did [against the Bengals]And, knowing he can, he will surely be involved in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation.”

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