The Pittsburgh Steelers have never faced Ryan Fitzpatrick with the Miami Dolphins before. But they have faced him about a half dozen other times, with five different teams, and have beaten him every time. They are hoping to make it six different teams he’s quarterbacked and lost with on Monday night.
Nevertheless, head coach Mike Tomlin retains a great deal of respect for the veteran journeyman, who always seems to wind up back in the starting lineup sooner or later. He was already benched once so far this season before getting his job back from 2018 first-round pick Josh Rosen, and is set to face Pittsburgh next week.
“Fitz is a guy that we have a lot of respect for”, Tomlin said, noting that “we’ve seen him a lot over the years. I think he is a catalyst for a lot of good for those guys. And his talents, and his experience, are reasons why. He’s a really talented guy. He’s always been adept at creating as plays get extended”.
Though not necessarily regarded as a ‘mobile’ quarterback, Fitzpatrick does have pocket mobility and is willing and able to step off his launch point to keep a play alive.
“That’s troublesome and worrisome from our perspective. We’ve got to rush him, but we’ve also got to rush him smart. He’s the type of guy that has escapability. He can get you with his legs”, Tomlin said. “But also, and more importantly so, he’s a guy that can extend plays and see the full field and keep his eyes downfield and produce plays in that way”.
When he does play, he is capable of catching on and putting up yards and points, as he did last season while he was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa was 2-0 and the Steelers 0-1-1 when they faced off in Week Three that year. He had thrown for over 400 yards and four touchdowns in each of the first two games. He still threw over 400 yards with three touchdowns against Pittsburgh, but his three interceptions proved to be the difference. And that has generally been the story of his career.
Fitzpatrick has started three games this year and played in five. He has completed 62 of 105 pass attempts for 717 yards with three touchdowns and five interceptions. His three interceptions against the New England Patriots (who have by far more interceptions than anybody on the year) are what got him benched, but it only took him two games to get his job back.
“He’s the type of guy that can really move the ball and really light up the scoreboard”, Tomlin reminded. “We’ve got a lot of respect for him”. They should, because as bad as the Dolphins might be on paper, Fitzpatrick is still a quarterback who has the ability and the willingness to torch a defense down the field if they give him the opportunity.