Steelers, down Fitzpatrick, boosted by Watt's return

Steelers, down Fitzpatrick, boosted by Watt’s return

PITTSBURGH — Cam Heyward didn’t think about Minkah Fitzpatrick’s discomfort when visiting the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday.

Heyward came to know Fitzpatrick as a bit obnoxious, so the veteran defensive lineman was surprised to learn in a text from Steelers safety later that afternoon that he had undergone surgery to remove her appendix just hours after the two were together.

“We saw it on the visit, and Minkah is grumpy all the time, so you don’t think about it,” Heyward said. “But after seeing it drop on my phone and checking it out, Mike [Tomlin] even explained to us, he was like, ‘First of all, you have to take care of the player.’ We need to make sure we mind our own business while Minkah is away. »

The Steelers (3-6) did just that with a 20-10 win over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. Although the Steelers were without Fitzpatrick, they received a boost from the return of reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year TJ Watt. Although Watt didn’t record a sack, his presence lifted the defense early on in the game. He was involved in the first two tackles and he finished the game with four hits and a quarterback. Watt’s presence also helped free up Alex Highsmith, who recorded two sacks.

“Listen here, when I saw him come out and saw the crowd screaming, I was like, OK, he’s about to make a statement,” security Damontae Kazee said. “Then I saw the first piece. … I was like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s a different animal. And I just knew, and he started pumping the crowd, and everyone’s screaming. He gave me chills on the pitch. “

After a nine-week layoff, Watt said he didn’t feel restricted in his first game back – except in one way.

“I mean, other than my legs looking like wet noodles,” he laughed. “That was about it.”

The secondary grabbed two interceptions and the defense forced the Saints to convert just 25% of their third downs. Pittsburgh’s defense held the Saints to just 186 total yards and kept them scoreless in the second half — just the fifth time New Orleans has been held scoreless in the second half in the last 10 seasons.

Kazee, activated off injured reserve earlier this week, replaced Fitzpatrick and grabbed one of the interceptions, while cornerback Levi Wallace grabbed the other.

Both picks came in the fourth quarter, and Kazee’s was particularly crucial as he snatched the ball away from Jarvis Landry on what would have been a deep finish on the third and fifth with the Saints just three down. Instead, Kazee’s interception gave the Steelers the ball, and quarterback Kenny Pickett capped off a short drive with a one-yard touchdown run to give the Steelers a two-point lead.

“We saw [Kazee] itching to come back, want to come back and just the amount of preparation he put in this week,” Watt said. He was one of the big guys wanting to splash, wanting to make plays, and he went out and did it. Very happy for him.”

Along with the pick, Kazee also finished the game with four tackles. The secondary, notched for big passes in losses to Buffalo, Miami and Philadelphia, prevented the Saints from doing the same. Their longest run was 18 yards and the longest run was 14.

“At the end of the day, we know as DB it’s always up to us,” Kazee said. “And just know that when Mink comes back, it’s going to be a crazy story.”

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