Up until this point, All-Pro S Minkah Fitzpatrick has uncharacteristically underwhelmed this season when it comes to the splash play department. Having recorded nine interceptions in his first two seasons in the black and gold after being traded from the Miami Dolphins back in 2019, Fitzpatrick has yet to pick off the opposing offense in 2021. While INTs aren’t the only thing that make an all-star safety, Fitzpatrick is currently lacking in other statistical categories compared to his previous two seasons in Pittsburgh, including having one recorded PBU on the season compared to averaging ten per year according to Pro Football Reference.
Fitzpatrick has also struggled at times as a tackler, as he ranks tied for first on the team with nine missed tackles in seven games (15% miss rate) according to Steelers Depot contributor Josh Carney, who does the missed tackle report for the site. Carney has stated the same concerns about Fitzpatrick and his lack of turnovers and missed tackles in his most recent report:
I will say though, it’s concerning Minkah Fitzpatrick continues to miss so many tackles in recent weeks. He’s constantly around the football, but he’s not coming up with turnovers (which is largely based on luck) and he’s missing tackles at an alarming rate.
Pro Football Focus has noticed these issues with Fitzpatrick’s game, and has severely docked him on their site because of it. In coverage, PFF has Fitzpatrick allowing 16 receptions on 27 pass attempts his way (59%), allowing two TDs when tracked as the primary defender. Because of this, long with his inconsistencies as a tackler and lack of turnover production, PFF has assigned Fitzpatrick with a 36.6 overall grade thus far in 2021, one of the lowest in the league at the safety position.
Obviously, Fitzpatrick shouldn’t ever be in consideration as one of the bottom feeders in the league at his respective position, and the analytics fail to record key plays he has made, including the critical fourth down stop against the Browns to help seal the victory. Still, Fitzpatrick’s play so far has been a bit uninspiring based on what we have seen thus far during his time in Pittsburgh. He has taken bad angles to the football in pursuit and leaves his feet too often when coming down in run support, looking to dive/arm tackle an opponent rather than make the secure wrap-up tackle. He also has let several would-be INTs fall through his hands, something uncharacteristic for a player known as a ballhawk.
However, the Monday night matchup with the Chicago Bears presents a “get right game” of sorts for Fitzpatrick, as the Bears rank dead last in the league in passing yards per game, averaging 127.4 yards, as well as ranking last in the NFL in passing yards per play (4.90). Rookie QB Justin Fields has been rather turnover prone to start his tenure as the starting QB, currently sporting a 3-to-7 TD/INT ratio while also losing two fumbles (eight total), resulting in a QB rating of 65.7 via Pro Football Reference.
His offensive line hasn’t done him any favors, giving up pressure regularly in pass protection, forcing Fields to throw the ball early and off-target to avoid getting smacked by the opposing pass rush. Thus far, Fields has been sacked 26 times in 2021, ranking first in the league. Knowing this, the likes of Cam Heyward, Alex Highsmith, and T.J. Watt will likely be playing chase of the rookie passer all night, forcing him to get outside of the pocket and throw the ball into tight coverage before his receivers can open up downfield. This should directly affect Fitzpatrick, who will get his opportunities in this matchup to record his first takeaway of the season on a rookie QB likely pressing to try and make a play.
What are your thoughts on S Minkah Fitzpatrick’s 2021 season thus far? Do you think that he has been as bad as the stats suggest, or do you think his impact than simply just turnovers and big splash plays? Do you think that there is a good chance he gets his first INT of the season against Chicago tonight? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!