Minkah Fitzpatrick: Steelers need more guys who 'want to work for it'

PITTSBURGH -- All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick strapped a brace on his broken left hand as he considered a question following the Steelers' 21-18 loss to the Patriots on Thursday night.

What's the mindset of this team? How do you feel after a game like this?

Fitzpatrick, a leader of the Steelers' locker room, suggested his team's problems were rooted in entitlement and a lack of effort.

"In order to see the fruit, you've gotta toil for it," he said. "I think too many people don't want to toil for it. They just want to walk out here and think that they're going to make plays and think that they're going to perform at a high level. I think we need to have more people who want to work for it, not expect it to be handed to them.

"This is the NFL. Nothing's handed to you. You got to earn everything. I think that dudes just think that because they're wearing the black and gold that they're going to win games, and I think we need to check that mentality and make people realize that they got to earn that mentality and they got to earn every single blade of grass, every single splash play and every single rep that they get out there. They got to earn it."

For a second week in a row, the Steelers (7-6) lost to a team that entered the game with just two wins. And for the second week in a row, the Steelers trailed by as many as 18 points, marking the first time since 2013 that they have trailed by at least that many points in consecutive contests.

With the back-to-back losses, the Steelers' chances to make the playoffs have dropped from 74% after the Week 12 win against the Cincinnati Bengals to 36%, according to ESPN Analytics.

Asked if the mentality he referenced could change, Fitzpatrick said he "wasn't sure."

But he did offer ways that mentality could change -- if the Steelers are willing to put in the work and do some soul searching.

"The only thing that people could do is evaluate their work week," Fitzpatrick said. "Look in the mirror, evaluate their work week, evaluate their character, evaluate their love for the game, evaluate why they play the game, and if you're doing it for the wrong reasons or if you're doing it just because you like it and you don't love it and you don't love the ugly part of it, then you need to evaluate what you're doing."

Fitzpatrick was by far the most critical of his own team's performance after the loss, but the message from coach Mike Tomlin and the rest of the Steelers was similar: The only thing they can do is get back to work.

"We got to figure it out," center Mason Cole said. "We're going to get our nose back to work and back to the grindstone, and it's always going to be challenging and can feel like the world's crumbling right now, but we'll go back to work and go win some games down the stretch."

Tomlin, asked about the direction of his team, reiterated the workman-like approach the Steelers are going to take heading into a Week 15 matchup at the Indianapolis Colts, a team also in the hunt for a wild-card spot.

"We get ready for our next opportunity next week," Tomlin said. "That's what we always do. Obviously this stings, but we'll be back."

Asked what gives him confidence the Steelers will be back after consecutive losses -- not to mention a résumé filled with close-call wins and blowout losses -- Tomlin doubled down.

"This is what we do," he said. "This is who we are."