Next man up might turn into next men up. Such is the task when trying to replace a player as talented as Minkah Fitzpatrick, currently on the Reserve/COVID list. During his Tuesday press conference, Mike Tomlin said that while Fitzpatrick hasn’t been ruled out of Sunday night’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers, he does not anticipate Fitzpatrick being available. Replacing him could come in many forms.
“Minkah’s the type of guy, it might be a multiple person job in order to highlight their individual skills,” Tomlin said in his conference carried by Steelers.com. “Minkah has a well-rounded skillset, you put him in any circumstances he’s going to perform relatively well. It may divide the labor up a little bit more.”
On the current 53-man roster, those options include the backup safeties Tre Norwood and Miles Killebrew. Two players with different paths and different skillsets. Norwood has the most similar play style to Fitzpatrick, a rangy free safety type with good instincts and plus ball skills. He’s climbed up the Steelers’ depth chart, replacing Arthur Maulet as the slot corner last week, logging 23 of the team’s 25 nickel snaps. Killebrew is a veteran and more physical player, resembling more of a box safety. In the preseason, he generally worked as the strong safety.
Other options include practice-squader Karl Joseph, a former first-round pick signed by Pittsburgh before Week 1. He’s appeared in just one game this season, logging two defensive snaps, but has a blend of physicality and athleticism that could earn him a sub-package role. Perhaps the team even gets creative with Cam Sutton and ask him to play some free safety, though that could depend on the status of Joe Haden, questionable with a foot sprain.
Tomlin compared replacing Fitzpatrick to replacing Mike Hilton this offseason.
“I would imagine it’ll be a multi-person discussion. Just like the discussion of replacing Mike Hilton is a multi-person endeavor. When you’ve got significant players, those who are multi-talented, that’s usually the case as opposed to putting it on one individual.”
For most of the season, Pittsburgh has leaned on Maulet and Norwood to replace Hilton. Now they’ll have to do the same with Fitzpatrick likely out of Week 11’s game. Only this time, as opposed to an offseason, the Steelers have less than a week to come up with a Plan B.