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Steelers’ Minkah Fitzpatrick, talks NFL playoffs, Alabama


Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick covers a lot of ground in a Q&A session with Post columnist Steve Serby ahead of Sunday’s wild-card playoff clash with the Browns.

Q: How hungry do you sense QB Ben Roethlisberger is to win his third Super Bowl ring?

A: I think he’s extremely hungry. I see a little more pep in his step the last couple of days, now that’s there’s a ring at stake. And we’re gonna go out there and try hard to get it to him.

Q: Describe your on-field mentality.

A: I’m instinctive, and then go out there and try to dominate from snap to whistle. It’s a competition for me. I’m gonna go out there and play with an edge and that chip on my shoulder.

Q: Describe the personality of the Steelers defense.

A: It’s aggressive … it’s physical. … Our main goal is to dominate from snap to whistle, and make you play how we want you to play.

Q: What is your definition of a Pittsburgh Steeler?

A: A blue-collar mentality is how I like to approach it … work hard, fight through everything.

Q: What is it about big games that you love so much?

A: I love it because we’re going against great competition. You know you’re going against an A-plus team, and you gotta have A-plus preparation throughout the week. You have to have A-plus taking care of your body, taking care of your mind and when you go out there. It’s an accumulation of everything that you did throughout the week.

Q: How would you compare Alabama coach Nick Saban and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin?

A: There’s a lot that they have in common. The way that they prepare for the game is crazy. They’re very detail-oriented, they don’t miss a step.

Minkah Fitzpatrick
Minkah Fitzpatrick
AP

Q: What drives you?

A: The competition aspect of it. I want to be the best at what I do, whether it be on a daily basis or an historic basis. But also the opportunity that this game provides and the league provides and everything that comes with it — whether it be being able to create opportunity for my family through it, whether it be just being able to pay bills for myself and everything like that and for my future family. I’ve been without that before, so me being able to create opportunity for the people around me and live a good life.

Q: Why are you driven to be great?

A: I hold myself to that standard. I know I could do that, and I know it could be the Hall of Famer-type guy because I hold myself to that standard every day — whether it be in practice or meetings, in film or taking care of my body. I feel like I hold myself to that standard, so I feel comfortable with setting that as a goal.

Q: Why are you proud to be a so-called Swiss Army knife?

A: I think it’s a compliment. There’s not a lot of guys that are able to move around and do a lot on the football field, ’cause it demands a lot. When people say that you could do that, it’s your teammates and coaches. They’re saying that they trust you with a lot.

Q: Do you see yourself as a similar type player as Troy Polamalu?

A: I think we have similarities. I think we’re both very instinctive guys. He moved around a little bit more than I do, but he has that range, natural ball skills, natural athlete, and a smart player.

Q: Which quarterback are you looking forward to intercept that you haven’t yet?

A: (Laugh) I got a long list, man.

Q: What is your favorite NFL interception so far?

A: My first one was against Tom Brady my rookie year. We [Dolphins] were down big so it didn’t really matter (laugh). He’s the best to ever do this. It was pretty cool.

Q: What do you remember about playing for Adam Gase?

A: I ain’t gonna talk too much about that. The past is the past (laugh).

Q: Describe Browns running back Nick Chubb.

A: He has great vision, he really doesn’t miss to many holes. A low center of gravity, great contact balance.

Q: His backfield mate, Kareem Hunt?

A: Same thing, honestly, He just has a little bit more wiggle to him than Nick does.

Q: Browns QB Baker Mayfield?

A: We’ve gotta put pressure on him, make him uncomfortable in the pocket.

Q: Some of your former Alabama teammates, whatever comes to mind — rookie Giants safety Xavier McKinney?

A: He’s a great player, I loved playing with X Man. He reminds me of myself, honestly. He’s very smart, he’s a guy that was always studying film and learning and asking questions to the older guys. He’s been injured lately, but he came back and made impact plays already.

Q: Jets defensive lineman Quinnen Williams?

A: He’s a funny guy, man (chuckle), but he loves the game of football, I don’t think there’s too many guys that loves it like he does. His energy is an infectious energy.

Q: Heisman-winning ’Bama receiver DeVonta Smith?

A: He’s very explosive. There’s not much he can’t do on the football field. He’s reliable.

Q: Crimson Tide RB Najee Harris?

A: He’s tough, he’s a big back, he’s a strong back, but he’s also very athletic. You see him jumping over people, making people miss, and then running away from DBs in the open field.

Q: Are you surprised by how former ’Bama QB Jalen Hurts did replacing Carson Wentz?

A: Not at all. He’s very detail-oriented, he’s a competitor as well, so I’m not surprised by any success that he had.

Q: What is your best football moment?

A: The national championships that I won in college, I won two. Both of those were pretty meaningful. … The one from my junior year [2018 season] when we won in the last second against Georgia on that deep bomb to DeVonta Smith. The first one [2016 season], I didn’t play my greatest game. I got bittersweet memories from that one.

Q: What was it like walking off the field losing to Deshaun Watson and Clemson in the 2017 title game?

A: It was tough, but it motivated us. We had a lot of talent, and we knew we shoulda won that game.

Q: What makes Deshaun Watson special?

A: He’s a very, very complete quarterback. I think he’s underrated in a sense — the way he can throw the ball, his accuracy, his arm strength. … I think it’s overlooked because of how good an athlete he is. Even though he can run, make plays with his legs, he’s just as good a thrower.

Q: What do you think of Ohio State-Alabama on Monday night?

A: I think it will be a good game, two very good teams, great offenses, great defenses.

Q: If you could defend against any tight end in NFL history, who would it be?

A: Tony Gonzalez.

Q: What is your favorite memory from Saint Peter’s Prep in Jersey City?

A: We won our [2014] state championship senior year [over Paramus Catholic]. It was played at MetLife Stadium. … I remember going crazy in the center of the field holding the trophy with my teammates.

Q: Who was your boyhood idol?

A: I was a big Philly fan, so [defensive back] Brian Dawkins.

Q: What was it about him that you admired so much?

A: I loved his attitude that he played with.

Steelers
Minkah Fitzpatrick runs into the end zone for a touchdown after intercepting Baker Mayfield.
AP

Q: Two dinner guests?

A: Jesus, MLK.

Q: Favorite movie?

A: “Collateral Beauty.”

Q: Favorite actor?

A: Denzel Washington.

Q: Favorite actress?

A: Viola Davis.

Q: Favorite singer/entertainer?

A: I’m a big Anthony Hamilton, John Legend guy.

Q: Favorite meal?

A: Any type of pasta in pasta sauce and chicken.

Q: The flooding from Hurricane Irene forced your family to rebuild your home.

A: It shaped me and made me into who I am today.

Q: What would you want your football legacy to be?

A: I think I want it to be obviously that ball-hawk safety, but also he’s very intelligent, very instinctive, but also a good leader on and off the field.

Q: How would you describe the Steelers’ mindset for Sunday night’s wild-card game against the Browns?

A: We’re going into it focused on execution, focused on us, focused on controlling our emotion and going out there and playing at a high level.

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