Minkah Fitzpatrick played role in Steelers game-winning INT despite injury

Minkah Fitzpatrick may have won the game for the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday... from the sideline.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Pittsburgh Steelers
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Pittsburgh Steelers / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers gutted out a 23-19 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. Now 6-3, Pittsburgh remains — rather shockingly — in the first place hunt despite Matt Canada's horrendous offense. Kenny Pickett completed 14 passes for 126 yards, but a 205-yard run game gave the Steelers just enough to get over the finish line.

Green Bay was in position for a last-second touchdown pass, but a clever defensive play call left Jordan Love rushing into his second interception of the day, with Pittsburgh's Damontae Kazee making the play.

It's difficult to imagine a more fitting way for the game to end — with the Steelers' defense making yet another impressive stand.

One could simply chalk up the credit to Steelers defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, who took over the job last season. He has put together a tremendous season on the defensive front, made all the more impressive by Pittsburgh's record relative to their impotent offense.

But, evidently, there was a surprise play-caller on the Steelers' final defensive possession of Sunday's win. Austin initially wanted to play man coverage on first-and-10 at the 16 yard line, but Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick encouraged an audible, he told Mark Kaboly of The Athletic.

"Yeah, I had an idea. So me and [defensive backs coach] Grady [Brown] talked [Austin] into changing it."

Fitzpatrick was on the sideline for the second straight week due to an ongoing hamstring injury. He was so committed to changing the play that Pittsburgh called a timeout and opted to incorperate Fitzpatrick's suggestion.

Credit to Minkah for the play call, and credit to Austin for heading his player's advice. Not every coach can swallow their pride and adjust based on another's observations. That is generally the sign of a quality coach.

Minkah Fitzpatrick made Steelers' game-winning defensive play call vs. Packers

The Steelers continue to win games with toughness and a little luck. It's hard not to pin all the blame on Matt Canada, even if personnel mishaps are equally at fault. Pickett continues to struggle at the controls on offense and the Steelers' full complement of playmakers leaves much to be desired, even with the backfield coming up large on Sunday.

To be 6-3 despite never breaking 400 yards of total offense or even out-gaining their opponent once is a testament to the Steelers' defense. Fitzpatrick is a key playmaker when healthy — 54 tackles in seven starts this season for the talented safety — but the Steelers have held up reasonably well in his absence. Perhaps, in part, due to his recommendations on the sideline.

Fitzpatrick's intelligence could land him a coaching job way down the road. For now, the Steelers will hope Fitzpatrick can make it back on the field soon. He wasn't placed on IR, so Pittsburgh is hoping for a quick turnaround from his hamstring strain. By that same token, the Steelers don't want to risk re-injury. Especially with the postseason in reach. If the Steelers plan to make noise in the playoffs, Fitzpatrick will need to be operating at 100 percent.

Pittsburgh will face the Cleveland Browns in a critical division matchup next week at 1 PM E.T. The winner will take sole possession of second place in the AFC North. We will see if Fitzpatrick is available when the time comes.

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