The last time that a Pittsburgh Steelers defender recorded five or more interceptions in a single season was in 2010, when Troy Polamalu accomplished that feat. That is, up until 2019, when newcomer Minkah Fitzpatrick reached that mark in the ninth game of the year—and just his seventh with the team.
The last time that a Steelers defender recorded five or more interceptions in the first nine games in a single season was…1994, when Darren Perry did it. He had six, in fact, and the year before that, Rod Woodson had seven interceptions in the first nine games. It used to be, however, a regular occurrence, 15 times between 1961 and 1984.
But the point is, it’s been a pretty long time since the Steelers have seen ball skills like this, or at least ball skills that have so readily and immediately translated onto the field. So it’s not a surprise that reporters have been asking him about it.
“It’s just doing our job. That’s all it boils down to is going out there and doing our job, being in the right position”, he told reporters after the game, during which he recorded his fifth interception, and also had a fumble recovery. One reporter joked in asking him where he keeps the ball magnets. “There ain’t no ball magnets”, he said.
“It’s just being in the right position”, he added. “Making sure I’m in the right spot. My teammates, they’re hitting the ball, they’re rushing the quarterback, just being around the ball, the plays are going to come to you”.
“Do it in practice. It’s just muscle memory, honestly. A couple weeks ago, I wasn’t in the right spot a couple times, and coach challenged me to be in the right spot. I’ve been in the right spot, and everyone else has been in the right spot, just making plays”.
Of course, being in the right spot isn’t just about reading a play and making a jump on the ball. It’s also understanding context and where to be in the event of a deflection. He has intercepted the majority of his passes off of deflections, including two on passes defensed by Joe Haden, and another that ricocheted off of an intended target.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how they come, as long as they come. His 96-yard interception return for a touchdown was his most impressive play, certainly, and perhaps one of the best around the league this season.