It started with a bang and ended — somewhat — with a bang for Pittsburgh Steelers’ star safety Minkah Fitzpatrick Sunday afternoon at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati in the Steelers’ thrilling, up-and-down 23-20 win over the Bengals in Week 1 of the 2022 season.
Fitzpatrick, returning to more of his freelancing, ball-hawking ways, opened up the 2022 season in style, returning a Joe Burrow throw 31 yards for a pick-six just over two minutes into the game. Later on, Fitzpatrick broke up a key pass in the end zone on third down late in the fourth quarter, and then blocked the potential game-winning extra point with zeroes on the clock in the fourth quarter.
On the day, he led the Steelers with 14 tackles, was all over the field dominating from start to finish and really looked like the Fitzpatrick that stepped into the black and gold and dominated from Day 1 in 2019.
For teammate and fellow secondary member Cameron Sutton, Fitzpatrick’s dominant display was nothing new to the Steelers, who have come to expect that type of performance from the All-Pro safety. Speaking with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Chris Adamski following the thrilling win, Sutton praised the standout safety, according to video via Adamski’s twitter.
“That’s nothing new, and who he is,” Sutton said, according to video via Adamski. “That’s him expanding in his role, him being that high-energy player for us, flying around and making plays, wreaking havoc on the ball. He started the game off for us with a pick-6. That was a very exciting moment for us, and gave us a lot of energy to keep propelling us throughout the game.”
Really, it was nothing new to Fitzpatrick’s teammates, even if that type of performance wasn’t put on display much throughout the 2021 season. With the Steelers’ defense relatively healthy and able to shift Fitzpatrick back to that center field role where he can rover around and make plays, it turned into a dominant performance.
Of course, the Steelers defense was on the field far too long throughout the afternoon, which led to a heavy workload for Fitzpatrick.
With a lot of 2019 vibes surrounding the Steelers team at the moment, Fitzpatrick might have to do a lot of heavy lifting this season once again.
Sunday’s performance just showed once again, at least according to Steelers captain Cameron Heyward, how complete of a player Fitzpatrick is.
“Minkah’s a complete player. A lot of people sleep on Mink and what he’s capable of doing,” Heyward said to reporters following the win, according to video via the Steelers’ official YouTube page. “Whether that’s being a box safety, being a ball hawk, or even blocking kicks. Me and T.J. were joking with him. We were like, ‘you don’t have a blocked kick so we don’t know why you like to talk about being this speed demon…’ but he got one today, he joined the club.
“Minkah’s a leader, he’s a leader in that secondary. I thought our secondary was all over the field today, picking off balls, challenging that wide receiver corps, and we were able to get the W today.”