Minkah Fitzpatrick deal is the trade that keeps giving for Steelers

PITTSBURGH -- A week ago, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Vince Williams sat in front of his locker at Heinz Field, shouting to anyone who would listen.

"Man, Kevin Colbert is a genius for getting Minkah," he yelled, laughing as he extolled the praises of his general manager. "Wooo, that man is a genius."

An hour or so earlier, Minkah Fitzpatrick capped his fourth interception of the season with a 96-yard return to the end zone en route to a 26-24 win against the Indianapolis Colts.

Following the Steelers' 17-12 win against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, when Fitzpatrick made a return trip to the end zone on a scoop-and-score, linebacker Bud Dupree stood in front of his locker and picked up where Williams left off.

"Man, [Minkah is] doing great," Dupree said to a scrum of reporters. "Kevin Colbert should have given up four picks for him."

After being traded from the Miami Dolphins in September, and just seven games into his career with the Steelers, Fitzpatrick is already reaching something close to mythical status as a ball-hawking defensive back who has a knack for making plays when his team really needs them.

Not only did he score on the 43-yard fumble recovery -- making him the first Steelers player to score defensive touchdowns in back-to-back weeks since Sam Washington in 1984 -- he also sealed the win by intercepting Rams quarterback Jared Goff as he targeted Robert Woods with less than 30 seconds left in the game.

"He's living right," said cornerback Joe Haden, who had five passes defended, a forced fumble and an interception of his own Sunday. "He's always in the right position. It's something to say that the ball just don't hit the ground. He's always around there being able to get them. I'm just happy he was there."

After grabbing an interception against the 49ers in his first game for the Steelers, Fitzpatrick went three weeks without a pick.

"A couple weeks ago, I wasn't in the right spot a couple times," Fitzpatrick said. "Coach challenged me. He said be in the right spot. I've been in the right spot. Everyone else has been in the right spot. Just make the play."

Now, he's on a roll.

Primarily playing free safety, Fitzpatrick has five interceptions, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery this season. The game-sealing interception Sunday makes him the first Steeler with a pick in three consecutive games since Troy Polamalu in Weeks 11-14 of the 2008 season.

Fitzpatrick is a one-man highlight reel, but his plays aren't happening without a strong supporting cast around him and hours logged in the classroom.

"He is just very professional," head coach Mike Tomlin said of Fitzpatrick. "It is football justice, as far as we are concerned. It is not anything mystical. He doesn't have a rabbit's foot in his pocket. He is preparing and taking advantage of opportunities. It is reasonable to expect it to continue, provided we are in an environment where those plays happen. You are up on people, you get them one-dimensional. You get more opportunities for those splash-type plays. It is not occurring in a vacuum for him."

Fitzpatrick, 22, has shown his team so much that nothing about him surprises his teammates anymore. Nothing except his age.

"Every time I say he's a second-year player, that's what throws me off," Haden said. "It just feels like he's been in it for a while. He studies tape very well. He comes in just ready to go."