The Steelers made Minkah Fitzpatrick one of the highest paid safeties in NFL history when he signed a four-year contract extension worth $73.6 million, including $36 million guaranteed in June. The former Alabama All-American paid it back in the season opener by playing one of the best games of his career.

Fitzpatrick picked off Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow in the first quarter and returned 31 yards for the touchdown. He jumped in front a pass that was intended for Tyler Boyd with nothing but green grass in front of him to give the Steelers an early 7-0 lead. His five touchdowns are the most by any defensive player since 2018.

“I came in wanting to make a statement,” Fitzpatrick said. “I felt like last year, it wasn’t a normal year for me.”

He finished the game with a team-high 14 tackles and blocked the Bengals extra point with two seconds remaining in regulation to send the game into overtime.

“That’s nothing new,” cornerback Cam Sutton said. “That’s who he is. He’s a high-energy player for us the way he flies around. He was creating havoc on the ball.”

Fitzpatrick has been a star in the Pittsburgh defense since the team acquired him from the Miami Dolphins in 2019. His impact has been felt, no team has more takeaways in that span than the Steelers.

The 25-year-old safety played at high-level at three different positions (nickel, cornerback and safety) during his time with the Crimson Tide and that versatility has carried over into the professional ranks.

“Minkah is a complete player,” defensive end Cam Heyward said. “A lot of people sleep on Minkah and what he’s capable of doing, whether that’s being a box safety or being a ball hawk or even blocking kicks. Minkah is a leader in that secondary."

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