Minkah Fitzpatrick not only set a personal best with his 14-tackle performance against the Tennessee Titans, he crushed his old mark of ten. And once again, his tackles were more important than what the stat sheet shows, preventing good runs from being great runs.
Although Tennessee rushed for 201 yards Sunday, only one run went longer than 15 yards. Fitzpatrick had a big hand in keeping those plays from not going any further. Mike Tomlin gave him credit in his post-game press conference.
“We just minimized some of the explosion plays when they did break,” Tomlin said in a Zoom call following the win. “You gotta tip your cap to Minkah. I don’t know how many tackles he had. But as a middle of the field player, there were several times where I thought his tackling was big and covered up a lack of gap integrity.”
Fitzpatrick had never had more than ten tackles in a NFL game prior to this one, doing so four times throughout his career. Two of those came in 2018 as a member of the Miami Dolphins. The other two have come earlier this season against the Buffalo Bills and Denver Broncos. Against the Titans, 12 of those tackles were of the solo variety.
Since 1987, as far back as PFR tracks game-by-game tackle stats, Fitzpatrick is the first safety to have 14 tackles in one game. He becomes only the third defensive back joining corners Bryant McFadden, Ike Taylor, and Dewayne Washington.
On the season, Fitzpatrick is up to 102 tackles already far past what he did last season with the team. It’s not a good sign when your starting safety leads the team in tackles and speaks to the issues up front and the Steelers’ 32nd-ranked run defense. For the second straight game, they allowed 200 yards. His 102 tackles put him four away from the most by a Steelers’ safety – again, since 1987 – and though we won’t be able to confirm, he’s likely to set a franchise record for tackles by a DB when the season comes to an end. He won’t hit the record for tackles in a season, that’s held by James Farrior’s 141, but he’ll come alarmingly close.
Fitzpatrick hasn’t had quite the takeaway numbers he and fans have gotten used to, though he did recover a fumble against the Titans. But he’s playing as well as he ever has. If it wasn’t for him, this Steelers’ run defense would somehow be worse.