Steelers confident turnovers will come for Fitzpatrick

The law of averages supposes most future events are likely to balance any past deviation from a presumed average.

That theory is why the Steelers aren't all that concerned about All-Pro strong safety Minkah Fitzpatrick not being involved in any turnovers to this point in the 2023 season.

When it comes to the play of Fitzpatrick, the Steelers feel confident things will even out in the end.

"You know he'll be able to get his plays," Steelers defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said Thursday at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. "I think sometimes it's just the law of averages. Things kind of slow down a little bit and I believe because I know what kind of football player he is that he's going to start getting his hands on some balls and making a splash that we need."

The Steelers (3-2) could certainly use some of Fitzpatrick's previous magic in the second half of this season, starting with their game Sunday at SoFi Stadium against the Rams in Los Angeles.

Fitzpatrick led the NFL in interceptions in 2022 with six and has been something of a turnover magnet since the Steelers traded for him after two games in the 2019 season.

In 66 career games in Pittsburgh, Fitzpatrick has 17 interceptions, three forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries, meaning he's been involved in a turnover in 36 percent of the games in which he's played for the Steelers. But that percentage was nearly 40 percent coming into this season, as Fitzpatrick has yet to be involved in an opposing turnover in the Steelers' first five games.

Going back to last season, he's now gone six consecutive games without being involved in a turnover, the second-longest such streak in his time with the Steelers. He went nine games without being involved in a turnover at the end of the 2019 season and start of the 2022 season as opposing teams completely avoided putting the ball in harm's way anywhere near his coverage.

But no player works harder at honing his craft when it comes to catching the football. Fitzpatrick is constantly working on drills well after each practice on improving his hand-eye coordination. And it's not like he's dropped interceptions this season.

The ball just hasn't found his hands ... yet.

"Minkah's going to make his plays," said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. "There are blocks of games in the past maybe where T.J. (Watt) is not getting sacks, T.J. is going to get sacks. Minkah's going to make splash plays. That's what all pros do."

Despite Fitzpatrick's lack of turnovers early in this season, the Steelers as a whole have been doing a good job of forcing opposing giveaways. The Steelers have 11 takeaways already this season, including six on fumble recoveries. They had just five fumble recoveries all of last season.

But after tying for the NFL lead a year ago with 20 interceptions, they have five in their first five games. It's a good number, but one that will only be helped when Fitzpatrick gets involved.

• Dale Lolley is co-host of "SNR Drive" on Steelers Nation Radio. Subscribe to the podcast here: Apple Podcast | iHeart Podcast

The Steelers have moved Fitzpatrick around more this season rather than having him just play the deep post. According to Pro Football Focus, he's played 150 snaps as the deep safety, 101 in the slot, 50 in the box, essentially as the strong safety and even 16 snaps as an outside cornerback.

He's been a key component the Steelers have moved around to match up with the opposing team's top weapon.

Fitzpatrick leads the Steelers with 41 tackles and also has two pass defenses, so he's still been very valuable.

"We're always conscious of where we put guys to try to get them in the best positions to make plays," Austin said. "Right now, sometimes you go through those times when when the ball is not coming your way. But I have every confidence that make us want to get around a few balls sooner or later."