July 23, 2024

PITTSBURGH — Minkah Fitzpatrick was furious following the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 21-18 loss to the New England Patriots in Week 14, so much so that he called out his own teammates’ work ethic and drive to win following the game.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was made aware of Fitzpatrick’s postgame comments but believes he meant them more as a challenge from the star safety to his teammates, instead of a complaint about their effort.

“You know, he was probably talking about smiling in the face of adversity. These are going to be tough, tough games and there’s going to be some adversity, there’s going to be some challenges, nothing is going to be given to us and we have to fight that,” Tomlin said. “We’ve got to smile in the face of that. [Fitzpatrick is] a guy who does that and lives that life and I’m sure he’s just challenging others to do the same. We have to do a better job of that in an effort to change the outcome of games.”

Fitzpatrick said there are too many Steelers players who think they simply need to show up to make plays and win games, and that the team’s leaders “need to check that mentality” as they prepare for a stretch run against playoff contenders while holding a precarious grip on a playoff spot.

Tomlin recognizes that his team will need to play dramatically better if they want to hold onto that spot and shares Fitzpatrick’s desire for urgency from the slumping Steelers.

“I’m not necessarily looking for positive messages in an effort to build them up,” Tomlin said. “I’m probably taking the opposite approach and talking about how urgent these weeks and opportunities and games are because the road is getting narrow. That’s a phrase we like to use and we’re moving into the month of December now. That’s just acknowledging truth.”

Their performances from the past weeks, which has yielded two consecutive losses to teams that entered with just two wins, begs the question – do the Steelers have enough players in their locker room who follow in Fitzpatrick’s footsteps and smile in the face of adversity?

“Certainly,” Tomlin said.

He’ll be proven right or wrong over the next four weeks as the Steelers close the regular season with an eye on locking up a playoff spot in the crowded AFC race.

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Stephen Thompson graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communications and political science from Pitt in April 2022 after spending four years as a sports writer and editor at The Pitt News, the University of Pittsburgh’s independent, student-run newspaper. He primarily worked the Pitt men’s basketball beat, and filled in on coverage of football, volleyball, softball, gymnastics and lacrosse, in addition to other sports as needed. His work at The Pitt News has won awards from the Pennsylvania News Media Association and Associated College Press. During the spring and summer of 2021, Stephen interned for Pittsburgh Sports Now, covering baseball in western Pennsylvania. Hailing from Washington D.C., family ties have cultivated a love of Boston’s professional teams and Pitt athletics, and a fascination with sports in general.

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