Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports listed one under-appreciated player on every AFC team for the 2023 NFL season, and for the Pittsburgh Steelers he had Minkah Fitzpatrick.
“We rave about Derwin James and Justin Simmons and Jessie Bates, but this guy should probably lead every conversation about top safeties,” Benjamin wrote. “While Pat Freiermuth and Cameron Heyward are also worthy candidates here, Fitzpatrick has been an absolute ball-hawking machine since arriving in Pittsburgh, with 17 picks and 38 pass breakups in just under four full seasons.”
Fitzpatrick has been an All-Pro selection in three of his four seasons in Pittsburgh, and also a three-time Pro Bowler. In 2022, he tied for the NFL lead in interceptions.
🏈 The Pittsburgh Steelers were one of the worst teams in the NFL last year in touchdown rate on drives that crossed midfield. According to Warren Sharp of Sharp Football, the Steelers had a 27% touchdown rate when crossing midfield, which was the fourth-worst percentage in the league. Only the New York Jets, Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts were worse. The two teams that appeared in the Super Bowl, the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles, had the best percentage. The Chiefs had a 50% touchdown rate, while the Eagles were at 49%.
🏈 According to Alex Caruso of ESPN, Diontae Johnson is one of 10 wide receivers to have been targeted on at least 24% of their routes in 2021 and 2022 (min 300 routes). The nine other receivers were Justin Jefferson, Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, A.J. Brown, Stefon Diggs, Cooper Kupp, DK Metcalf, Keenan Allen and Deebo Samuel.
🏈 DynastyIM is highly concerned about the future of Steelers running back Najee Harris. “There’s only been TWO First Round Running Backs to go from a 70%+ Carry% as a Rookie to BELOW 60% in their second season. Trent Richardson (and) Najee Harris. The outlook doesn’t look great heading into Year 3,” DyanstyIM tweeted.
🏈 Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, who’s a Pittsburgh native and Pitt product, held a celebrity softball game at Charles L. Cost Field to help raise money for the Chasing M’s Foundation. The organization is dedicated to proving health and safety to youth through sports, training and programming. Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson and former Steelers running back James Conner were at the event.
🏈 Cam Heyward and his wife Allie were at the Ed Sheeran concert at Acrisure Stadium on Saturday night.
🎂 Happy 48th birthday to former Steelers wide receiver and return man Will Blackwell, born on July 9, 1975 in Texarkana, Texas. Blackwell was selected by the Steelers in the second round out of San Diego State in the 1997 NFL Draft. Blackwell never panned out as a receiver, recording just 67 receptions for 682 yards (10.2 average) and two touchdowns in five seasons with the Steelers, but he was impressive as a kick returner. He averaged at least 19.1 yards in all five seasons and posted a career-high in 2000, averaging 28.1 yards per kick return. He had a 98-yard kick return for a touchdown against the San Diego Chargers that season. In 2001, Blackwell reinsured his knee injury in Pittsburgh’s Week 1 21-3 loss to Jacksonville. Blackwell was placed on injured reserve for the rest of the year and his career ultimately came to an end.
🎥 In honor of Jack Lambert’s 71st birthday on Saturday, Steel City Star posted a highlight reel of his spectacular 1979 season.
Happy Birthday to Jack Lambert!
In honor of Dracula-in-cleats, I made this highlight reel of his spectacular 1979 season
Music courtesy of @epidemicsound
Lambert ‘79! pic.twitter.com/z4YasR7y68
— Steel City Star (@steelcitystar) July 8, 2023
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AROUND THE NETWORK
Pittsburgh Hockey Now: Trade chatter remains between the Penguins and San Jose Sharks for defenseman Erik Karlsson.
Pittsburgh Baseball Now: Carmen Mlodzinski will make his first start for the Pirates on Sunday after beginning his career in the bullpen.
Pittsburgh Sports Now: Pitt had a hot start to June in recruiting, but has cooled off lately.
West Virginia Sports Now: WVU was picked to finish last in the preseason Big 12 media poll.
Nittany Sports Now: Four-star Pennsylvania edge rusher Mylachi Williams picked Penn State over Pitt, Notre Dame and others.
Pittsburgh Soccer Now: The Riverhounds played a scoreless draw with the Sacramento Republic.