Cleveland Browns tight end Harrison Bryant (88) fumbles the football...

Cleveland Browns tight end Harrison Bryant (88) fumbles the football as he is hit by Pittsburgh Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (39) during the first half of an NFL football game Monday, Sept. 18, 2023, in Pittsburgh. Credit: AP/Gene J. Puskar

PITTSBURGH — Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick believes the hit that ended B rowns running back Nick Chubb's season on Monday night was unfortunate but not dirty.

Fitzpatrick dove at Chubb's legs in an effort to stop the Cleveland star near the Pittsburgh goal line early in the second quarter of what eventually became a 26-22 Steelers victory.

Chubb had Steelers linebacker Cole Holcomb on his back when Fitzpatrick struck Chubb's left leg. The leg stayed planted on the Acrisure Stadium turf while his body bent over the top of Pittsburgh's All-Pro safety.

Chubb will undergo surgery to repair the injury and faces a lengthy rehab. Fitzpatrick called the injury “unfortunate” but defended himself against critics who believe the hit was illegal.

“I’m a guy that is a competitor, that is going to go out there and play the game,” Fitzpatrick said Thursday. “I’m chippy. I’m edgy of course but I’m not a dirty player. I’m not going to sit here and defend my character. I know the type of player I am. Chubb knows the type of player I am.”

Fitzpatrick, who bruised his chest on the play, said he told Chubb on the field before the running back was taken away in a cart that the hit was not intentional.

“No chance that I would ever try to purposely injure somebody,” Fitzpatrick said. “It was an unfortunate hit. We play a physical game and people get hurt and you know, people sit behind a screen and tell me how I should have done it and what they would done, they’ve never played the game.”

Pittsburgh Steelers free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (39) runs for a...

Pittsburgh Steelers free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (39) runs for a touchdown after recovering a fumble by Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff during the first half of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Nov. 10, 2019. Once he got traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Fitzpatrick quickly emerged as one of the NFL's best playmakers at the position and was chosen as the top safety in the league by The Associated Press. Credit: AP/Keith Srakocic

Fitzpatrick, who is 20 pounds lighter than Chubb, said he didn't see Holcomb on Chubb's back when Chubb charged through the hole. He made a decision to go low because he believed if he didn't, he was “going to get run over and I’m going to get concussed."

While Fitzpatrick understands rules are designed to protect offensive players, he added his job is to try and stop them without putting himself at risk too.

“I know it’s an offensive game and people want to see points and whatnot but defensive players are people too and you’ve got to protect themselves,” he said. "When you’re tackling big guys, it’s easier and you take less of a brunt (collision) on your body and your head when you go low.”

Steelers defensive coordinator Teryl Austin defended Fitzpatrick, a three-time All-Pro who has been fined just once during his time in Pittsburgh for an illegal hit, a horse collar tackle against Denver in 2020.

Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb runs past Pittsburgh Steelers...

Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb runs past Pittsburgh Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick during the first half of an NFL football game Monday, Sept. 18, 2023, in Pittsburgh. Credit: AP/Gene J. Puskar

“He’s a stand-up player," Austin said. “So I have no problem with the way everything shook out. You don’t want it to happen.”

The Browns have spent the past few days grappling with Chubb’s loss. It hasn’t been easy, even with Chubb in the team building on Thursday, where he visited with some of his teammates.

“Every human being, football or not, goes through a grieving process,” said All-Pro left guard Joel Bitonio. “Seeing a guy like Nick go down like that, it was a brutal injury. You realize we have a job to do now and he’d want us to do our job.

“Obviously we’re doing this stuff for Nick. We know he’d want us to go out there and work and practice and do all those things, so it’s really easy to turn that page in that sense. But he’s always in the back of your mind because the type of person he is.”

Cleveland quarterback Deshaun Watson was hesitant to comment on whether Fitzpatrick’s hit was dirty. He hasn’t seen a replay of Chubb’s gruesome injury and doesn’t plan to see it.

“I didn’t want to watch it,” he said. “Even when we watched the tape, we didn’t even watch the play, so I can’t speak on what happened, exactly. I was on the opposite side and I didn’t even know Nick was hurt until I drew back over and I saw him on the ground."

The Browns brought back Kareem Hunt to help fill the void left by Chubb's absence. Cleveland (1-1) hosts Tennessee (1-1) on Sunday.

Fitzpatrick, who went to the hospital as a precaution after aggravating the injury while trying to chase down Browns running back Jerome Ford later in the game, expects to be available when the Steelers (1-1) travel to Las Vegas (1-1) on Sunday night.

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AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed.

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