Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick secured a pick-six, blocked a field goal, and registered 14 tackles in his team’s 23-20 victory over the Bengals Sunday in Cincinnati.
Wednesday, the NFL rewarded Fitzpatrick for his efforts, naming him AFC Defensive Player of the Week.
— NFL (@NFL) September 14, 2022
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes took home the award on the offensive side, while Browns kicker Cade York was named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
As our Cale Berger wrote recently, the performance for Fitzpatrick couldn’t have come at a better time.
Not only did the Steelers need his efforts –– big time –– to win the game against the Bengals, but it also represented Fitzpatrick’s first game in the black and gold since signing a massive four-year, $73.6 million contract extension in June.
At the time, that made Fitzpatrick the highest-paid safety in the NFL. While warranted, such an extension still comes with lofty expectations, and Fitzpatrick met and exceeded them in Week 1.
His teammates and coaches certainly recognize it.
“Minkah is a complete player,” defensive end Cam Heyward said following Sunday’s win. “A lot of people sleep on Mink and what he’s capable of doing, whether that’s being a box safety or being a ballhawk, or even blocking kicks.”
Despite the investment and despite the performance, Fitzpatrick was not named a captain for the Steelers heading into the 2022 season.
Mike Tomlin urges everyone not to look into that fact.
“That’s just when you got a good team. You got guys that are deserving of that recognition, but you can’t trot eight guys out there. Everybody respects that dude
(Fitzpatrick) in terms of his talents and work ethic but his leadership, so I don’t think anyone views him as uncaptain-like.”
With T.J. Watt expected to miss around six weeks with a pectoral injury, the Steelers will need to rely on Fitzpatrick and his playmaking skills even more in the direct future.
If Week 1 serves as any indication, he’s more than up to the task.