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Postgame Takes

Tomlin on fight, Minkah and not blinking

Plenty of fight: Coach Mike Tomlin stresses so many things to his players in the course of a week, and it's likely all of those messages paid off in an overtime, 23-20, win over the Cincinnati Bengals to open the 2022 season.

The team never stopped fighting, even when staring in the face of adversity after losing several top players to injury and being forced into overtime after leading all game.

"I'm not surprised by the fight," said Tomlin. "I knew they would fight. I found comfort in that. I wasn't looking for comfort, but I found comfort in that. I've seen enough of that during team development.

"It was a hard-fought game on both sides. It always is when you are in the AFC North. It's good to come down here and get it done today. We'll learn from these lessons and get ready for the next AFC game."

Throughout the spring and in training camp, Tomlin referred to some of the adversity the team faced, and today he saw how they handled various challenges pay off.

"The spirit," said Tomlin. "We put them in adverse circumstances in team development so that is revealed. I don't think any of us are surprised by it because we've seen enough of it in team development."

Game action photos from the Steelers' Week 1 game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paycor Stadium

Minkah magic: While he might not have been on that game ball list, safety Minkah Fitzpatrick had an incredible game from start to finish.

Fitzpatrick got the Steelers on the board early when he intercepted Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and returned it 31 yards for a touchdown for a 7-0 lead.

And at the end of regulation, it would be Fitzpatrick who would block Evan McPherson's extra point attempt to send the game into overtime, tied 20-20.

Fitzpatrick finished the day with a stat line of 14 tackles, 10 solo stops, an interception, pass defensed and the blocked field goal.

But it's so much more he brings, including his leadership, even though he isn't a team captain.

"When you've got a good team, you got guys that are deserving of that recognition, but you can't trot eight guys out there," said Tomlin. "Everybody respects that dude not only in terms of his talents and his work ethic, but his leadership. I don't think that anybody views him as uncaptain like."

Game balls all around: The Steelers had five rookies dressed for Sunday's game, as well as 11 veterans who never suited up for the black and gold.

And after the game, Tomlin gave them game balls.

"It's' good to come in here in a hostile environment and not blink, particularly with the number of new guys, whether they're rookies or new to us," said Tomlin. "I just gave all the new guys game balls. The guys that have been here before, this is their expectation. They know what the standard of expectation is. But I can't say enough about the new guys, and they came along side and fought as if they have been here. That is so critical in environments like this."

Among those was quarterback Mitch Trubisky. While his numbers might not jump off the page with 21 of 38 completions for 194 yards and a touchdown, he did what he had to do, especially with the game on the line in overtime.

"He did not blink," said Tomlin. "Made the necessary plays in the weighty moments. I'm appreciative of his efforts."

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