The Pittsburgh Steelers traded for defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick Monday night and it probably didn’t take too long for defensive coordinator Keith Butler to find out that yet another former first-round draft pick would be part of the unit he coaches. What did Butler think we he first found out that the Steelers had acquired Fitzpatrick from the Miami Dolphins Monday night?
“Hallelujah! That’s what went through my mind. That’s exactly what went through my mind,” Butler said Thursday during his weekly media session, according to audio on 93.7 The Fan. “I’m telling you, I’m glad we got him. You know, we needed him. And you know, watch him in practice, man, y’all see the same thing I do, that dude can move. You know, so we’ll see what happens.”
Fitzpatrick was selected 11th overall by the Dolphins in the 2018 NFL Draft and it wasn’t a huge shock that he went that high. However, just in case he had fallen the Steelers did their homework on the Alabama product way ahead of time and they even went to both of the school’s pro days.
“Yeah, we looked at him at year ago in the draft,” Butler said Thursday. “And obviously we drafted a safety. So, we liked him a lot last year. When he came available [this past week], we were very interested, obviously.”
Is Fitzpatrick going to be able to immediately help the Steelers defense much on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers? We’ll see, but he’s scheduled to start that contest at free safety just the same and he should ultimately play every snap alongside fellow Steelers safety Terrell Edmunds, the player the team ultimately selected in the first-round of the 2018 NFL Draft 17 picks after Fitzpatrick was taken by the Dolphins.
“We’ll see if he can or not,” Butler said. “Obviously we want to make sure that he’s comfortable in what we plan and he’s not having to do a lot of thinking and stuff like that, then he can help us.”
While the Steelers seemingly want Fitzpatrick to stay anchored at free safety in his first start Sunday with his new team, Butler hopes the very versatile back will eventually become more of a movable chess piece in the future and possibly even a little some against the 49ers.
“Well, we hope he can, you know, as soon as possible,” Butler said. “That type of player you want to play him; you don’t want to let him stand on the sidelines and watch with you because you’re not doing any good. So, we gotta make sure that we’re careful in terms of what we’re doing with him and give him a chance to be successful.”
Where else can and will Fitzpatrick ultimately play positionally in the Steelers defense moving forward?
“Well, I think with most people in the NFL nowadays with safeties is they have a number of roles they have to play because there’s more wide receiver activity in terms of personnel groups that we play against,” Butler said Thursday. “So, he’s going to be valuable to us in lot of different ways and our safeties has had to move around a little bit and play some different position for us. He’ll do the same for us, but right now we just want to make it simple for him and keep it simple for him and let him pin his ears back and play a little football.”
Well find out Sunday just how much Fitzpatrick can help the Steelers defense and especially when it comes to explosive, game-changing plays. In the Steelers first two games of the 2019 regular season, the defense has allowed 12 explosive plays of 20 yards or longer and five of those went for touchdowns. 10 of those 12 explosive plays were passes and four of them went for touchdowns.
“I’m glad we got him,” Butler said Thursday. “He’s gonna help us.”