The Pittsburgh Steelers made an improbable comeback to defeat the Cleveland Browns, 26-22, on Monday night during Week 2. But days removed from the game, that’s not what anyone seems to be discussing.
The conversation around Monday night’s contest has moved to Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick’s hit that resulted in Browns running back Nick Chubb suffering a significant knee injury.
Fans on Twitter labeled Fitzpatrick’s hit and the Steelers safety ‘dirty.’ But ESPN analyst Ryan Clark couldn’t have disagreed more with that assertion.
“To all of these people who think that what Minkah Fitzpatrick did is dirty, you’re dumb, and you’re soft, and you don’t understand what it’s like to be in that position,” Clark said on ESPN on September 21. “You don’t understand what you’re paid to do. My job, Minkah Fitzpatrick’s job, is to give the Pittsburgh Steelers another blade of grass to defend. Not only another blade, but as many blades as he possibly can.
“If you watch that game or you’ve watched Nick Chubb run at any point in his life, he runs through tackles, he runs through people.”
Chubb sustained his knee injury on the second play of the second quarter. Steelers linebacker Cole Holcomb had Chubb wrapped up near the 5-yard line when Fitzpatrick torpedoed helmet first into Chubb’s lower leg.
The hit resulted in Chubb’s knee bending in such a way that the ESPN broadcast elected not to show the replay. Chubb left the field on a cart and was ruled out for the game.
Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski said in his postgame press conference that he anticipated Chubb would miss the rest of the season. Cleveland placed Chubb on injured reserve on September 20.
Ryan Clark Defends Minkah Fitzpatrick’s Hit on Nick Chubb
Clark’s take on Chubb’s injury isn’t an unbiased one. He played free safety in Pittsburgh for eight seasons. Clark is known as not just an advocate for the Steelers but defensive football in general.
But Clark’s analysis of Chubb’s injury still gave fans a unique insight into the minds of the safeties who deliver hits like the one Fitzpatrick did on the Browns running back.
“When we walk into stadiums, I walk into the stadium, Minkah Fitzpatrick walks into the stadium, he wants everybody to walk out of the stadium the same way they walked in. But it’s not his responsibility,” Clark said. “When I’m going to make a tackle or when Minkah Fitzpatrick is going to make a tackle, he can’t transfer or he can’t go through his mind, ‘A guy’s on his back. Maybe I shouldn’t hit him? Maybe I should grab him up high? Maybe I should drag him down? Maybe I should let him get two more yards?’ It’s not how it works.
“These are split second car crashes. Period. That’s what they are, and you make split second decisions based on what your job is, and Minkah Fitzpatrick’s job is not to protect Nick Chubb.”
As Clark continued, he requested all NFL fans to go watch their own team’s defenses. Clark claimed that if they did, fans would see their teams’ defensive backs also tackling big running backs such as Nick Chubb low at the knees.
Clark said that more often than not, when that happens, the running back is fine.
Even though he was strongly against any claim that Fitzpatrick’s hit on Chubb was dirty, Clark still expressed sorrow that the Browns running back will be out for the rest of the season.
“This is unfortunate. It is so, so bad, so sad for the NFL to lose such a great man and a great player for such an extended period of time,” Clark said. “But saying it’s dirty is wrong, it’s wrong, and it’s foul, it’s immature and it’s irresponsibly. It’s football.
“That’s why you love these people because they are willing to do things that either you can’t or aren’t willing to do. But I’ll say it again, Minkah Fitzpatrick is not a dirty player.”
Fitzpatrick Responds to His Critics: ‘I’m Not a Dirty Player’
The criticism for Fitzpatrick grew loud enough after Week 2 that the safety addressed it on September 21.
“I’m not a dirty player,” Fitzpatrick told the media. “My kids know the type of player I am. Chubb knows the type of player I am, playing against him the last five years, twice a season. I love competing against him. He brings the best out of me and I bring the best out of him.
“There’s no chance that I would try to purposely injure somebody. We play a physical game where people get hurt.”
Fitzpatrick and the Steelers will visit Cleveland in Week 11. It will be interesting to see if Browns fans still feel upset about the nature of Chubb’s injury when that game takes place on November 19.