Teryl Austin Confident Turnovers Will Come For Minkah Fitzpatrick

Minkah Fitzpatrick

If there’s one stat you didn’t expect to see six games into a season, it’s that Minkah Fitzpatrick hasn’t taken the football away this year. For as big of a playmaker as he is, he’s yet to intercept a pass or recover a fumble. But defensive assistant (and de facto DBs coach) Teryl Austin believes the big plays and gaudy numbers will come for Fitzpatrick.

Austin spoke with reporters Wednesday and was asked to evaluate Fitzpatrick’s season six games in.

“It’s quiet in terms of turnovers,” Austin said in audio provided by the team, “but he does a lot more for us in terms what he does in the back end and getting us lined up and direction. I know it’s probably not what he wants and we’re all expecting a little bit more in terms of turnovers and all that stuff. But it it’s going to come. A guy like him, who is a really good player. Those things might go through a drought or something, but he’s a really good player and the turnovers will come.”

Fitzpatrick hasn’t recorded an interception in 13 straight games (including playoffs). His last came in Week 11 of 2020, picking off two against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He also hasn’t recovered a fumble since Week 9 of last year. It’s the longest turnover-less streak of his career, college or pro.

But turnovers can be fickle, even for the game’s top playmakers, and he’s had some close calls. Terrell Edmunds’ interception this season came off a pass deflected by Fitzpatrick, who should get the bulk of the credit for making the play. Fitzpatrick dropped an interception against the Green Bay Packers in Week 4, one of several missed chances by the Steelers in the loss. Sunday against Seattle, Fitzpatrick forced a fumble on RB DeeJay Dallas, who got an extremely fortunate bounce back into his arms. Had the ball bounced any other direction, Pittsburgh would’ve recovered, won the game, and the worry over Fitzpatrick would have lessened.

Austin admitted that early in the season, the team attempted to do more with Fitzpatrick than they had in the past.

“I think early this year we did in terms of moving around. We had him at nickel, we had him at dime. We kind of moved him in some different spots and now we’ve let him settle in because some of the other guys have come along. And so that gives him a chance to really hone in on his position. I have no problem with Minkah Fitzpatrick and the value that he brings to our team.”

That’s something we’ve noted throughout the year and as Austin said, something the team has gone away from in recent weeks as guys like Tre Norwood and Arthur Maulet have established themselves. Over the team’s first two weeks, Fitzpatrick played 28.7% of his coverage snaps in the slot, an unusually high number. Since Week 3, he’s played zero snaps there and gone back to his traditional free safety spot, though the team still spins him down underneath on a lot of third downs, just as they’ve done for most of his Steelers’ career. Overall, his play has improved, even if it isn’t quite 2019-2020 levels.

Outlets like Pro Football Focus have graded Fitzpatrick as among the worst safeties in football. That’ll come when he’s (rightly) responsible for things like Henry Ruggs’ long 61-yard touchdown in Week Two. To a degree, it feels like Fitzpatrick might be pressing for the big play a bit, arguably a little overaggressive in search of breaking that interception drought. But he certainly isn’t one of the worst safeties in football and sooner than later, that turnover-less streak will come to an end.

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