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Steelers Turn to Veteran Safety to Help Fill Void of Minkah Fitzpatrick



Steelers safety Miles Killebrew
Steelers safety Miles Killebrew against the Jaguars, Oct. 29, 2023 - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — The Steelers have plenty of items to shuffle heading into their game against the Titans, but none are more important than getting the safety room down without Minkah Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick is out with a hamstring injury, and while the team does not know how long he will be out just yet, they will at least miss him on the short week. Without him in the fold, Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee will step up as the starters. But in the three safety sets, a new name will emerge for the team.

Veteran Miles Killebrew is set to step up for the Steelers. Mike Tomlin and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin have given votes of confidence to Killebrew this week. Killebrew, drafted under Austin in Detroit, has experience in Austin’s system as a safety, but he is different than what they ask most safeties to do. He is a little linebacker and a big safety, meaning he can walk up on the edge and be utilized differently than most other safeties.

I think like last week you saw he played in some of our threesafety packages, and he can play on the edge in terms of that. He’s a good athlete,” Austin said. “He can tackle in the open field just like he does on special teams, and he’s been doing that role for us since he’s been here. I think in some of those instances when we need a big guy to play on the edge, he can do that, and I think that’s why we have faith in Miles (Killebrew).”

Killebrew doesn’t get to play much on defense. But the veteran is in his eighth NFL season and has earned the special teams captainship for the Steelers. They pay him to play quality special teams, and yet, not only has he done that, he has exceeded expectations. But Pittsburgh has no qualms about his ability to play significant time without Fitzpatrick.

“Miles (Killebrew) has started as a safety in this league,” Tomlin said. “I’m not concerned about his abilities if that’s what you’re asking.”

Pittsburgh will lean on everyone to help replace Fitzpatrick. Killebrew is just one of many names that must step up in his absence. And while there is no replacing Fitzpatrick, Pittsburgh needs stable play on the back end, with Will Levis having a bazooka attached to his right arm.