Minkah Fitzpatrick had a game to remember Sunday in a 23-20 OT victory against the Cincinnati Bengals, making impact play after impact play to save Pittsburgh’s skin on multiple occasions. He gave Pittsburgh their first points of the season on a pick-six of Joe Burrow to start the game and came up with the play to send the game into overtime.
When Fitzpatrick spoke on the Pat McAfee Show Monday, he was asked about the fact that people can never count the Pittsburgh Steelers out of a game and if Mike Tomlin has any role in that given his personality and coaching style.
“Yeah, Coach T, he has this phrase where he says, ‘cut your eyelids off’,” Fitzpatrick said on the Pat McAfee Show. “So, saying like don’t blink. So, that means that that no matter what’s going on in the game, don’t act surprised. Don’t act like we’re out, down and out, act like we’re professionals and go about every play like a professional. That phrase is just saying embrace whatever comes. Control what you can control. Whether that’s needing five turnovers to win the game or 400 yards passing to win the game. That’s what we got to do to win. Yesterday was a perfect example of cutting our eyelids off and going out there and playing ball.”
Tomlin credited QB Mitch Trubisky and the rest of the team for not blinking in yesterday’s thriller with the Bengals standing fast in the midst of adversity like having Najee Harris, T.J. Watt, and Levi Wallace leave the game along with several others that were in and out of action throughout the game.
It could have been easy for the defense to fold at the end of the game as the offense failed to establish any notable ball movement during most of the second half, but they kept fighting on. Fitzpatrick particularly emulated Tomlin’s phase to a tee, knocking a potential TD pass out of Michael Thomas’ hands in the end zone as well as blocking the extra point that would have won the Bengals the game at the end of regulation, sending the game into overtime.
HC Mike Tomlin has praised Fitzpatrick in the past for his professionalism, calling him “a serious competitor.” Fitzpatrick lived up to that billing Sunday afternoon, as he recorded 14 total tackles, a PBU, and INT returned for a TD, and a blocked PAT. He and the defense did their part in a crucial AFC North showdown with the team that swept them last season, cutting their eyelids off to the factors outside of their control and continuing to fight with this never-say-die mentality.
It wasn’t pretty, but Fitzpatrick and the Steelers did what they had to do to squeeze out a win. Given the current state of the offense and the potential injuries that Pittsburgh is dealing with after one week of regular season play, we can likely expect more games to come down to the wire like this past weekend, seeing players like Fitzpatrick embrace the moment and compete until the very end.