The Pittsburgh Steelers knew the sort of talent they were getting when they acquired second-year safety Minkah Fitzpatrick earlier this season via trade. If the fact that they were willing to give up a first-round pick for him didn’t say it, the coaching staff certainly did when they talked about him in the wake of the trade.
12 games into his Steelers career, he has more than made good on their good-faith effort to bring him into the fold, and he in turn has been rewarded by being named to the Pro Bowl. His is the first defensive back the Steelers have sent to the Pro Bowl since Troy Polamalu in 2013. Uncoincidentally, he is also the only Steelers player to intercept five passes in a single season since Polamalu last did it…all the way back in 2010.
Fitzpatrick has recorded five interceptions, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, and nine passes defensed in his 12 games with the Steelers this season. He also returned one fumble and one interception each for scores, including a 96-yard pick six against the Indianapolis Colts.
“It was definitely a goal of mine” to be able to make the Pro Bowl this season, Fitzpatrick told reporters earlier this week, as he headed into year two. “It’s awesome to be able to achieve that in Year Two. One feels good, but one wasn’t the goal”.
The goal, in other words, is to make the Pro Bowl every year. Sustained success over a long period of time. That is the expectation that he holds for himself. The 2019 season was just the beginning for him, and in theory, 2020 could, or even should, be even better when you consider that he had to adjust to an entirely new scheme on the fly.
For the first time in a while, in fact, the Steelers will retain one starting secondary from one year to the next, with Joe Haden and Steven Nelson at cornerback and Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds at safety all under contract for at least the next two seasons. Mike Hilton will also be a restricted free agent, and Cameron Sutton is under contract for 2020 as well.
“It’s awesome that we’re seeing the fruits of everything that has transpired”, Fitzpatrick added. “It’s exciting for any professional athlete going through something to just stay true to who you are, keep your head down, keep working and, at the end of the day, you’re going to get what you deserve”.
The former 11th-overall pick was not happy with his role with the Miami Dolphins, who put him on the trading block and ultimately chose to deal him to Pittsburgh, thinking they might get a top 10 pick back for him. Instead, his play has helped them reach a position where they may be drafting in the bottom third of the round.