Steelers’ Minkah Fitzpatrick Claps Back at Ref After No-Call

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If you didn’t believe Minkah Fitzpatrick was one of the best defensive backs in the game, worthy of top safety money, you do now.

The Pittsburgh Steelers went on a rollercoaster ride with the AFC Champion Cincinnati Bengals. On that ride, Fitzpatrick had a game for the ages, and was why his team squeaked out an overtime victory in Week 1. While the defensive unit played lights-out, Fitzpatrick was the catalyst, making one explosive play after another.

It all started on the first play of the Bengals’ opening drive with a beautiful Fitzpatrick pick-six, and his domination kept churning.

Fighting tooth and nail, the battle between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati went down to the wire. By the end of regulation, the Steelers’ defense was operating on pure adrenaline.

With just nine seconds remaining, referees called Fitzpatrick for a ticky-tack unnecessary roughness penalty that the referees took forever to discuss. The penalty, Fitzpatrick’s second of the game, gave the Bengals an automatic first down at the goal-line and ultimately led to Cincinnati’s game-tying score.

Burrow targeted Tyler Boyd, who dropped the ball, but Fitzpatrick hit him afterward.

Fitzpatrick didn’t agree with either call and expressed as much on the Pat McAfee Show.

“They gave me two terrible calls. It is what it is,” Fitzpatrick said.

On the next play, Burrow targeted Mike Thomas, but he heard footsteps — Minkah Fitzpatrick footsteps — and dropped the pass. Fitzpatrick came in and lowered the boom jarring the ball to prevent it from coming back to Thomas.

Fitzpatrick then looked at the official, clearly clapping back, still upset over the previous penalty.

“I asked him, I said, ‘Was that clean?’ Maybe I shouldn’t have said it, but that’s what I said. It was a very sarcastic remark. I was full of emotion, full of energy.”

But the plays that led up to that moment were game-changers.


Minkah Fitzpatrick Magic

“Minkah Fitzpatrick is an absolute ball-hawk!” announcer Ian Eagle exclaimed after the safety’s interception for touchdown. On the first play of the Cincinnati Bengals’ opening drive, Fitzpatrick jumped a route intended for wide receiver Tyler Boyd and snatched the ball. The explosive play set the tone for the Pittsburgh Steelers defense.

Per Pro Football Reference, the pick-six was the fourth defensive touchdown of Fitzpatrick’s career. The first of his Steelers career came on a 97-yard return versus the Indianapolis Colts six weeks after landing in Pittsburgh in 2019. The very next game, Fitzpatrick one-upped himself with a fumble recovery for a touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams. Fitzpatrick intercepted the Cleveland Browns in Week 5 of 2020.

“I came in wanting to make a statement,” Fitzpatrick said. “I felt like last year; it wasn’t a normal year for me.”

 

Fitzpatrick put together a highlight reel all game long, including the blocked PAT that took the game into overtime.


Minkah Fitzpatrick’s Blocked PAT

For the critical winning point after, the Cincinnati Bengals were forced to use a backup in tight end Mitchell Wilcox, after starting long snapper Clark Harris suffered a bicep injury.

“This is not the time you want your backup tight end as a snapper running out there, but he could be a hero today,” said CBS game analyst Charles Davis.

It was not Wilcox’s time to be a hero.

A tight end by trade and not a long snapper, his snap was slow, allowing Fitzpatrick time to block the kick.

“It was maybe like half of my finger,” Fitzpatrick told CBS Sports while pointing to his pointer finger. “It wasn’t a whole lot, but I got enough of it.”

By the game’s end, Fitzpatrick compiled a game-high 14 tackles, which tied for the most in his career.

The dominating performance from the Steelers’ star defender earned him AFC Defensive Player of the Year props, the first of his career.


The Steelers Way

Pittsburgh Steelers defensive Teryl Austin told Davis before the game, “One thing you ought to know about us in Pittsburgh, we are always going to play aggressively.” And this game was no different.

“I’m proud of the way we played,” Fitzpatrick told Steelers media after the game. “Everybody came together, everybody did their job, everybody fought through. They tied it up, and we fought and played hard.

“This is definitely what Steelers football is and what you should expect from the defense.” That’s good to hear because the defense will need to ride this momentum as the offense takes its time to get going.

Physicality is always a significant component of Fitzpatrick’s games, and this one was no different. If he keeps balling out like this, he could have another All-Pro honor coming his way at the season’s end.

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