It's all a testament to the leadership Fitzpatrick brings to the table. He might not be the most vocal guy, might not be the rah-rah guy, but he doesn't need to be.
"I am a lead by example type of guy," said Fitzpatrick. "I learned that from my father. My father is a great man, great father. Worked hard. He didn't say a lot. It was monkey see; monkey do. I just copied and pasted what he did and put my own little twist on it. Anytime you are around successful people, or someone who is good at their job, whether it's your father, mother, or a CEO, if they are good at it you can learn from them just by watching how they work. That is what I try to emulate, live by and work the right way and people are attracted to that.
"A good leader knows when he has to be direct or blunt with somebody. A good leader also knows when he has to be uplifting and energetic and people need to feed off him. There are days when I am a little bit of a jerk, but that is what that person needed, or I needed that day. There are days when I am more lighthearted, loud mouthed and joking and trying to pull people along. I feel like my father exemplified that 100 percent and I am that."
It's all of the above, and a whole lot more, that motivated the Steelers to sign Fitzpatrick to a new five-year contract this offseason, keeping him in the black and gold long-term.
While Fitzpatrick could have bragged about the new contract, thinking it was all about him, he did the opposite.
"When it came out that he signed, he sent a group text to all of the defensive backs and he thanked them," revealed Austin. "It's a team sport. As great as he is, if the guys around him aren't doing things, aren't elevating their play, he doesn't get it. You can sometimes be a great player, and nobody knows because you aren't with a good defense, you aren't with a great team. He was appreciative of how he got there. He didn't get there alone. It took hard work of him and others.
"I can't say enough about Minkah. Having Minkah on the team makes my job easier. He is the kind of guy when you think about Steelers who played here a long time, which is what they were…smart, tough, big game football players who elevated players around him. He fits the bill."
Fitzpatrick is already off to a fast start for the 2022 season. In the season opener, he intercepted Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and returned it 31-yards for a touchdown. He became the fourth player in NFL history to have an interception return for a touchdown in four of his first five seasons. It was also the fifth defensive touchdown of his career, tied for third in the NFL among active players in that category. He followed that performance with an interception of Patriots quarterback Mac Jones in Week 2.
"There is always more you can do," said Fitzpatrick. "Always."