Ben Roethlisberger is on track to start Sunday night in Los Angeles. But Minkah Fitzpatrick, the other player on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ COVID list, will not have the same outcome. Speaking on the Mike Tomlin Show with Bob Pompeani last night, Tomlin ruled out Fitzpatrick for the Chargers’ game.
“Minkah will not be available to us,” Tomlin told Pompeani. “He will still be in the COVID protocol.”
It’s certainly not a surprising piece of news but confirmation of it. Fitzpatrick was placed on the Reserve/COVID list Monday. On Tuesday, Tomlin said he “did not anticipate” Fitzpatrick being able to clear protocol in time and throughout the week, players and coaches have talked about next man up, working under the assumption he wouldn’t return to the line.
This will be the first NFL game Fitzpatrick has missed, breaking a streak of 57 straight appearances, and of course his first missed start with the Steelers. On the year, Fitzpatrick has 64 total tackles, nearly matching last year’s number of 79 across 16 games. In 2021, he has one forced fumble and one pass deflection while still searching for his first interception of the season. It’s been 16 games since his last interception.
The Steelers have been adamant about a division of labor in replacing Fitzpatrick as opposed to putting the onus on one man. It’s unclear exactly how that will look but likely includes rookie Tre Norwood and potentially Karl Joseph, who could get elevated from the practice squad later today.
Losing Fitzpatrick is an even bigger loss considering the opponent. The Chargers have a potent passing offense led by Justin Herbert and weapons in Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and tight end Jared Cook. But the Chargers’ offense hasn’t always matched talent with production, losing three of their last four and failing to record more than 27 points in any of those games.
Fitzpatrick will need to pass COVID protocol to return for Week 12’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.