Minkah Fitzpatrick’s Hands To Be Full in Wild Card Game

Minkah Fitzpatrick
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Like Ben Roethlisberger said in an interview, the Pittsburgh Steelers have no chance to win their Wild Card matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs. They have minimal offensive firepower, their defense can’t stop the run, and their opponents are the twice reigning AFC champions. The Steelers are the biggest underdogs in the opening rounds of the playoffs by a wide margin. But any given Sunday, right? If the Steelers have any chance of winning this game or even making it competitive, they will need their stud safety Minkah Fitzpatrick to play the best game of his already-accomplished NFL career.

Minkah Fitzpatrick Key to Pittsburgh Steelers Pulling Upset

Run Support

It certainly isn’t ideal for a team’s deep free safety to be one of the most important components of their run defense. That’s exactly the case for the Steelers, though, who had one of the NFL’s worst run defenses this year. They have struggled to overcome a beat up defensive line and horrendous linebacker play. Minkah Fitzpatrick has made more tackles in run support than any team would like their free safety to make. His 124 total tackles led the team by a longshot and support the idea that a) he’s a playmaker and b) opposing running backs are making it to the last line of the Steelers defense far too often.

While the Chiefs aren’t thought of as a running team, they run the ball very effectively. According to Sharp Football Analysis, they were the third-most effective rushing attack in the league this season. Their offensive line is among the league’s best, too. The Steelers will have their hands full with the Chiefs rushing attack; there’s no two ways around it. Fizpatrick will, unfortunately, play a huge role. If the defensive line and linebackers can’t step up, it will be left to Fitzpatrick to prevent any homerun plays.

Defending the Deep Ball

Kansas City’s aerial attack can give a team fits in many more ways than one. They can throw over the middle, to the flats in space, or the vaunted deep ball. Travis Kelce is a nightmare to defend over the middle and is tough to bring down when the ball is in his hands. Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman can use their elusiveness in space on short passes, or their burner speed to take the top off a defense. The deep ball, homerun plays could be Pittsburgh’s downfall. Their offense won’t be able to keep up with Kansas City’s. So, the defense will need to keep everything in front of them and hope they can force mistakes out of Patrick Mahomes.

So where does Minkah Fitzpatrick come into play? Well, being the deep safety, he will be tasked with not letting the speed of the Chiefs behind him. The Steelers boast a quality secondary, but there isn’t a ton of speed to go around in the unit. If Joe Haden, Cameron Sutton, or Ahkello Witherspoon let the Chiefs receivers get off the line clean, they’re in trouble. In that case, Fitzpatrick will be the only defender standing between the receiver and the end zone. He is a cerebral player and has the athleticism to make almost any play asked of him. He’ll need to do that Sunday night, without a flaw, to slow down the Chiefs offense.

Making a Splash Play

If the Steelers want to win this game, they will need to get by on splash plays. That’s plural. On their defense, T.J. Watt is the first person they’ll turn to for a splash play. However, given their elite offensive line and multitude of ways to attack a defense, the Chiefs are well-equipped to game-plan Watt out of the contest. He’ll of course find ways to make an impact, but he can’t be counted on to record multiple sacks or force a couple of fumbles.

Fitzpatrick is the next player who the Steelers would turn to for a splash play. Patrick Mahomes, as good as he is, will make mistakes. He has made plenty this year. Minkah Fitzpatrick is equipped to capitalize. If Mahomes makes a mistake on a deep ball, Fitzpatrick can be trusted to make the play. Presented with the chance to intercept the ball, he’ll make the play. If he can do that once or twice in this game, he just might be able to give his team a fighting chance to pull the upset.

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