Minkah Fitzpatrick has only been a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers for about a month and a half or so, spanning five games played. In those five games played, he has already produced four turnovers, and had a hand in producing another.
His three interceptions are more than any one player had last season, and are tied for the most by any defender for the Steelers since Troy Polamalu’s Defensive Player of the Year campaign in 2010, during which he picked off seven passes. The last time a Steelers defender finished with three interceptions was in 2017, when both Ryan Shazier and Sean Davis did it.
Fitzpatrick still has nine more games. Now, is it reasonable to expect him to continue to produce turnovers at such a prodigious rate? Certainly not, and we can look to the fact that all four have come in only two of his five games. But when he does get his hands on the ball, it’s not an accident.
“It’s just studying the game and working with my teammates and my coaches, playing fast, and just doing my job”, he told reporters after Monday nights’ game, in which he had two interceptions, via Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Every single time you see me making plays, that’s me doing my job. It’s being on the details — if it’s a sack or sack-fumble or punching the ball out, a pick, hey, everybody is just doing their job”.
Fitzpatrick’s first of two interceptions came off of a tipped pass, which popped up into the air and sailed backwards. He maneuvered into a center field position to come down under it, picking it off, and the offense was able to respond with a touchdown drive.
His second interception of the game came in the second half, and arguably shouldn’t have happened. It was a third-down play on which Ryan Fitzpatrick overthrew his intended target. The safety went up high to track and snag it out of the air, coming down with it on the three-yard line. But the offense, again, was able to respond and lead a 97-yard touchdown drive.
The 11th-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft out of Alabama, Fitzpatrick was the first safety off the board that year, and heavily coveted by the Steelers. After they were able to acquire him via trade with the Miami Dolphins—whom they just beat—Mike Tomlin talked about how it had been a “pipe dream” the year before in scouting him, knowing that he would never be available to him.
But they have him now, and he’s making a big difference. He had better, as they gave up their first-round draft pick in order to acquire him.