The Pittsburgh Steelers began the 2022 season with a 2-6 record. But as the cliché goes, it’s not about how one starts, it’s about how one finishes.
The 2022 Steelers season could end epitomizing that phrase. Since their rough start, the Steelers have won six of eight games to pull to an even 8-8 record.
But their work isn’t finished yet. Pittsburgh still needs one more win and help to make the postseason as the AFC’s No. 7 seed.
Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick reminded his teammates with a comment to the media on January 6 that while the narrative around the team has changed recently, they can really alter it based on how Week 18 goes.
“We can really change the whole season by how we play this weekend and how we dominate this weekend,” said Fitzpatrick.
The Steelers must beat the Cleveland Browns at home on January 8 to stay alive in the postseason race. The Steelers then also need the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins to both lose to make the playoffs.
Fitzpatrick Earns MVP Honors Ahead of Pivotal Week 18
It’s not surprising to see Fitzpatrick deliver a message to his teammates through the media. In his three full seasons with the Steelers, the 26-year-old safety has become one of the team’s top leaders on defense.
He’s also having another All-Pro type campaign.
Fitzpatrick has posted 86 combined tackles, including 1 tackles for loss and 1 quarterback hit. He also has 11 pass defenses and leads the NFL with 6 interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown in the Week 1 overtime victory against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The safety’s latest interception came in the two-minute drill versus the Baltimore Ravens in Week 17. The pick sealed an improbable 16-13 road victory for the Steelers to keep the team’s playoff hopes alive.
Fitzpatrick clinched a victory in the same manner during Week 13 against the Atlanta Falcons.
For his terrific play, Steelers players voted Fitzpatrick team MVP on January 6. Dale Lolley of Steelers.com tweeted that with the honor, Fitzpatrick joined an exclusive club.
Fitzpatrick also received a nomination to the Pro Bowl this season. It will be the third time he represents the Steelers at the Pro Bowl.
If he makes the All-Pro team this season, it will be the third time he receives that honor as well.
Browns Lose Star Defender Before Week 18
The Steelers are gearing up for a pivotal matchup against the Browns. So is Cleveland’s top defender Myles Garrett, who talked about how much he’d love to play spoiler against the Steelers on January 8.
But the Browns won’t have everyone on defense in Week 18. NFL reporter Ari Meirov tweeted on Friday that the Browns sent defensive end Jadeveon Clowney home from practice after he expressed a disinterest in returning to the team next season.
Ironically, Garrett addressed the situation with one of the more famous Mike Tomlin sayings.
Clowney was a great addition for the Browns last season, as he posted 9.0 sacks, 11 tackles for loss and 19 quarterback hits during 14 games in 2021.
But this season, he’s missed four games because of an ankle issue and a concussion. Clowney also hasn’t been nearly as productive when in the lineup.
In his last nine games, Clowney has just 0.5 sacks and 18 combined tackles. Overall, he has 2.0 sacks, 4 tackles for loss and 4 quarterback hits this season.
Clowney, though, can still be a force at any moment. He had 5 combined tackles, including 1 for a loss in Week 17 against the Washington Commanders.
Without him in the lineup, the Steelers pass protection can shift its focus to Garrett, who is the only Browns defender with more than 3.0 sacks this season.
The Steelers-Browns matchup will kick off at 1 pm ET on January 8.