The Pittsburgh Steelers are going to need their playmakers to start making plays more consistently in the second half of the season if they have any hope of success—of which there is little to be had. That goes not just for the offensive side of the ball but the defensive as well.
While it may be harsh to single out All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who already has three interceptions on the season (one returned for a touchdown, another nearly so), he has also been the subject of some high-profile misses on big plays in the end zone, plays we’re accustomed to seeing him make. And nobody’s taken it harder than he has, in reality.
“It’s like anything. Nothing ever corrects itself. You have to work through it, and it’ll be corrected”, defensive coordinator Teryl Austin told reporters via transcript on Thursday about Fitzpatrick’s struggles at certain key moments on the season.
“So, there’s obviously a reason he didn’t reach up and get it. He’s in position. He’ll work at it, just like everybody else”, he added. “We have things that we work on and work to get better so that they don’t repeat themselves out on the field. He was part of that process, like we all were this week, of trying to figure out what we have to do better to get ourselves in position to win”.
The two biggest plays of note occurred in the blowout losses to the Buffalo Bills and the Philadelphia Eagles. In both cases, Fitzpatrick was in position to make plays on the ball, but failed to finish, allowing Gabriel Davis and A.J. Brown, respectively, to win the ball and score on a deep pass.
Under ordinary circumstances, Fitzpatrick at least bats down any ball he can reach. He was able to reach both of these and he simply didn’t finish. He was beside himself on the sidelines after each of these plays knowing exactly this.
Of course, nobody can hold Fitzpatrick to a higher standard than the one he holds himself to. Teammates couldn’t even talk him into the ‘you’ll get ‘em next time’ line of thinking on the sideline, as caught by the broadcast cameras. He knows he let one go.
And he also knows that this is a Pittsburgh Steelers team right now that can’t let any opportunity slip by. He’s been there before. He arrived with Mason Rudolph making his first NFL start, and then was there for six games by Devlin Hodges. The defense had to be above and beyond, and largely, they were.
And largely, it was thanks to him. His presence had a transformative effect on the back end, but that was partly because quarterbacks quickly learned he owned the deep part of the field. With these high-profile failures, perhaps more quarterbacks want to test him in the second half of the season. I’m sure he welcomes the challenge.