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How Minkah Fitzpatrick Helped the Steelers Win from the Sidelines



Steelers Minkah Fitzpatrick
Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick on the sidelines against the Titans, Nov. 2, 2023 - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — When injured players are on the sidelines, they can significantly help with their intangibles and general understanding of the team. That happened when Cam Heyward would stand on the sidelines during his absence, and in general, he would be there for help and leadership. Now, that honor rolls onto Minkah Fitzpatrick, who has more thoughts than you can imagine on every play.

With the Steelers leading 23-19 against the Packers on Sunday and one last play coming up, defensive coordinator Teryl Austin had several newer players in there taking snaps. Elijah Riley, Trenton Thompson, and others were playing after an in-game injury to Keanu Neal. Austin did not want the Steelers to bust coverage and instead called a simple play that could get all those guys lined up in the correct spots.

Steelers FS Minkah Fitzpatrick

Pittsburgh Steelers free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick stretches before his team’s game against the Green Bay Packers on Nov. 12, 2023 — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

The issue? Fitzpatrick did not like what he saw and affirmed to Austin that those young safeties could correctly line up and play more complicated coverage. Not only is that precisely what happened, but Damontae Kazee nabbed another interception to shut the door on the game.

“Well, here’s what happens in the thing. You get in those situations; I got a couple new guys in the secondary,” Austin said. “Some of the things that you work on, they may not have worked on. So, my initial thought was, ‘hey, let’s get them something where we can get them a little bit close, it takes a little bit of thinking out of it and we don’t have anybody that lines up in the wrong spots.’ They assured me that the guys they had in the room would be able to line up where they needed them, so that’s why we ended up going with their suggestion. You know, it was a good call. It’s like anything. I think if you have good players, you have good coaches, you have to listen to their counsel at times, and so I know what I thought, but they assured me that it would be run right, and it is, because if it wasn’t run right, we would have had to get ready of everybody.”

Minkah Fitzpatrick Saves the Day

The video of Minkah Fitzpatrick that has gone around sees him lobbying to change that play. Austin, to his credit, listened and changed the play. That proceeded to win the game, and that is not bad coaching, but intelligent coaching. Not all coaches are open to players’ suggestions, even if they are as football-savvy as Fitzpatrick. But if anyone would know the room, Fitzpatrick would know it better than anyone out there.

While out with a hamstring injury, Fitzpatrick is embracing the new role. Working the sidelines alongside head coach Mike Tomlin, Austin, and defensive backs coach Grady Brown, Fitzpatrick was wearing a headset and engaged in trying to do anything he could to help his replacements surge to victory against the Packers. They will have to do the same this week, but could also be without Neal. If that happens, Thompson could be in line for a start alongside Kazee with others filling in those voids, too.