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Steelers Standout Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick Began His Case For DPOY In Sunday’s Week 1 Win

Jordan Schofield / SteelerNation (Twitter: @JSKO_PHOTO)

Steelers Standout Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick Began His Case For DPOY In Sunday’s Week 1 Win

The Pittsburgh Steelers began their season with one of the crazier games in recent memory. Despite some costly injuries, the black and gold walked out of Cincinnati with a victory in Week 1. In the midst of the madness, the defense had a historic performance, which the team needed every bit of due to a lackluster offense.

Steelers linebackers Alex Highsmith and TJ Watt

Credit: Jordan Schofield/SteelerNation (JSKO_PHOTO Twitter)

TJ WattAlex Highsmith, and Cam Heyward all torched the Bengals‘ offensive line all day long. The front seven racked up seven sacks on the day, forcing Joe Burrow to rush into several other throws as well. Perhaps no one had a better game though than All-Pro safety, Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Watt, coming off his Defensive Player of the Year campaign, got all of the defensive attention heading into the season and rightfully so. He tied Michael Strahan‘s single-season record for sacks in just 14 games. On the other hand, Fitzpatrick, one of the game’s premier safeties, had an interesting 2021 campaign. Amongst non-linebackers, he led the league in tackles with 124. Due to the poor run defense from the front seven, Fitzpatrick had to clean up a lot of the mess.

As a result, he didn’t receive the same praise this off-season. In the annual ‘Top 100′ list compiled by players’ votes, Fitzpatrick was a surprising omission. The disrespect continued when Madden NFL 23 came out, as he wasn’t even rated as a top-10 safety, coming in with an 89 overall. Fitzpatrick heard that disrespect loud and clear, as evidenced by his comments throughout the off-season and his play on Sunday.

With a fully healthy and recouped unit on Sunday, Fitzpatrick was able to return to his usual duties. After Heyward sacked Burrow on the first defensive play, Fitzpatrick followed that up with a 31-yard pick-six on the second play.

Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick

Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick races to the endzone for a pick-six in the Week 1 victory over the Bengals. Photo Credit: Karl Roser/Pittsburgh Steelers

That play set the tone for the rest of the day, as he was all over throughout. The star safety did pick up 14 tackles, which hopefully he doesn’t have to do on a weekly basis again this year. While he was able to roam in the back end of the secondary again, he shouldn’t have to make that many tackles. Fitzpatrick laid punishing hits throughout the day as well, while picking up two questionable unnecessary roughness penalties in the process.

Perhaps the biggest play of the day, he blocked the Bengals’ extra-point attempt that would have won them the game in regulation. Fitzpatrick clearly had other plans, as it gave the black and gold life heading into overtime. Unfortunately, Watt likely won’t get the chance to defend his DPOY title, as he suffered what’s believed to be a severe pec injury.

While it’s just a one-week performance, the door is now open for Fitzpatrick to win the hardware. He’ll be competing with some phenomenal defenders throughout the NFL, like Myles GarrettMicah ParsonsAaron Donald, and others, but if he keeps up these performances, he’ll be in contention. In fact, he may be competing with his teammates as well. Highsmith and Heyward put up some monster performances in Week 1, and they are names to watch moving forward in this conversation.

Steelers Cameron Heyward and Minkah Fitzpatrick

Credit: Jordan Schofield/SteelerNation (JSKO_PHOTO Twitter)

Does Minkah Fitzpatrick have a realistic shot at winning DPOY this season? How much will he need to step up with Watt out? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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Credit to my dad, I have been a lifelong Steelers fan. I have fond memories of watching the Steelers win two Super Bowls when I was a little kid. I have only been to 1 Steelers game in my life, which was in Kansas City. That was the notorious game where Antonio Brown pinned it against his chest down the sidelines for a touchdown. I hope to get to Heinz Field some day! I graduated from Iowa State University and look forward to growing as a writer with #SteelerNation!


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