Minkah Fitzpatrick Explains How He’s Improved His Tackling

Minkah Fitzpatrick knew he had to improve his tackling. Not just because of the volume of tackles he’s been forced to make this season, already over 100 with three games to go, but the importance of where he makes his tackles. Open-field moments where if he misses, the runner has nothing but green in front of him.

Fitzpatrick did struggle with missed tackles earlier in the season. But he’s cleaned things up in recent weeks and might be tackling now better than ever before. In a Monday Zoom call with reporters, Fitzpatrick described how he improved.

“I mean earlier this year, I was making a lot of tackles, but I was missing a few,” he told reporters in audio provided by the team. “A few that normally I wouldn’t miss. Sometimes it’s just all about your eyes. That’s what’s it was for me for a while was my eyes. I was over running balls and over running the ball carriers. So I just had to work on my eyes. Coach [Teryl Austin] getting me right every day at practice, making sure my eyes were in the right place.”

Fitzpatrick leads the team with 102 tackles and by next Sunday evening, will likely have the most tackles by a Steeler safety since at least 1987. His 71 solo tackles are nine more than the next closest Steeler, are 11th-most in the entire league, and the most of any defensive back. His tackling yesterday against the Titans was especially critical, preventing good runs from being great ones.

Angles are the first key to making the tackle. Making the tackle with good technique matters just as much.

“Wrap it up too. Wrap tackling it and not just diving at people and trying to shoot through their legs. Guys are big in this league. They’re not just gonna go down like that and if they do, they fall forward six more yards. So I’ve just been really emphasizing the last few weeks staying up, staying square, putting my body on people. I’m a bigger free safety, 210+ [pounds] when I play. So I just put my body on people and being physical has been an emphasis for me. I haven’t always been great at it, but so I’ve been working on trying to work on it to get better at it this season.”

According to our Josh Carney’s missed tackle tracker, entering Week 15, Fitzpatrick had 16 misses this season and a 15.4% missed tackle rate. Those numbers are up from last year, missing just 11 tackles in all of 2020 with a 12.9% rate. But Fitzpatrick has been asked to do more and do it more often this year, and in recent weeks, he’s cut his missed tackles down. He did have at least one against Tennessee, but he’s proven a valuable last line of defense for a front seven struggling to win up front.

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