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Fitzpatrick embraced what the season brought

The 2023 season was one that brought something safety Minkah Fitzpatrick wasn't accustomed to.


And it wasn't by choice, it wasn't because of his play on the field.

It was because of something he has rarely experienced in his career.


Fitzpatrick missed seven games in 2023 due to a combination of injuries, including a hamstring injury mid-way through, and that was followed by a knee injury to close out the regular season.

It tested him, but it also taught him to embrace what he was facing.

"It's part of the game. It was my first year and hopefully my last year where I've sat a significant amount of time," said Fitzpatrick. "I just tried to embrace it. I tried to still lean from that position, that stance. Even though I wasn't playing, there were still ways I was trying to get better, whether it be on the field or off the field.

"I just had to embrace it. It's part of the game, part of our job."

It sounds easy…just embrace it. But it's not as easy as it sounds, especially when you aren't able to do something you love so much.

"There were some days that were easy, some days that were tough," said Fitzpatrick. "Game days were definitely tough."

One of the things Fitzpatrick embraced during the time was an awareness of what was happening around him. He focused on some of the things he lost focus on when things are hectic in season.

"I tried to really stay engaged, not in a sense of being vocal or constantly communicating. But being where my feet are," said Fitzpatrick. "Paying attention to what is going on around me. Paying attention to the little things. Paying attention to what people in the locker room, in this building say. What they are saying, what they are communicating. Whether it's subtly or in your face, I was trying to take heed of everything that was going on and trying to correct some things that were being talked about. I had the necessary conversations.

"The reason I recognized I needed to work on it was because I had the opportunity to be still and really see what was going on. When you are in the mix of it, you are game planning and scheming, you can lose sight of all the little details, or you become nose blind to what is going on around you. The fact that I had time to be aware of what was going on is something I want to implement more. I want to make time to be where my feet are. Listen to more of what is going on in the locker room. Listen to what is going on upstairs. It's something I want to apply moving forward."

Take a look at photographs of Steelers S Minkah Fitzpatrick from the 2023 season

The key for him moving forward is to continue being where his feet are, even when things are hectic, and not lose sight of what is happening around him. 
"I still have to figure it out," said Fitzpatrick. "I think it's sitting down and having those long conversations in the cafeteria. Sitting in the locker room and having those conversations. Listening to what is going on around you in the locker room.

"Being engaged when people are talking. Listening to what other people are saying when they are talking. Just being where my feet are and aware of what is going on around me."

While Fitzpatrick became more engaged in what was happening off the field, one area where he has always been laser focused is what is happening on the field. Fitzpatrick was impressed with what he saw unfold in his absence. He saw veterans take charge and young players make their mark. 

And he knows it's all because of one person.

Coach Mike Tomlin.  

"We had a lot of older guys, veterans step up. We had a lot of younger guys step up," said Fitzpatrick. "We asked a lot of people. It's a telltale sign of the type of team we are. We are a scrappy team that will fight no matter what. We have a lot of selfless dudes who will do a lot of things on and off the field to help. It was no surprise. 

"Football is a crazy game. Last year we had some crazy circumstances. It's a telltale sign of who we are, the type of team Coach T has built, the type of culture Coach T has built. We continue to fight no matter what the circumstances. It's a culture that is hard-nosed. You have a job to do, get it done, no matter how you have to do it."

That attitude of you have a job to do, get it done, is one Fitzpatrick and his teammates embrace because they know Tomlin would do the same for them. And it's not just on the football field. 

It's off the field as well.

"We know that he cares for us on and off the field," said Fitzpatrick. "He is a coach that cares about our development as men and not just football players. The last thing he said in the team meeting at the end of the season was, 'As you step into this offseason think about how you can improve as a man. Because if you think you can be a terrible man and a great football player, you are lying to yourself.' 

"That was his closing remark for a reason because he cares about it, and he cares about us. When you have a coach like that a lot of guys are willing to do a lot for a guy like that."