The Pro Bowl is an afterthought, if even that, for a lot of fans. They might have a brief if fleeting reaction over who initially makes the Pro Bowl and who doesn’t. They may be glad to hear that a guy gets in who deserved it through the alternate selection procedure. That’s about the extent of their interest, however.
The Pro Bowl still gets good viewership, a fact that many of you will probably find surprising, but the game itself certainly is not held with the same esteem that it once was long ago. Still, for the players, for a young guy to make his first Pro Bowl, that’s a big deal, and always will be.
For the Pittsburgh Steelers, they ended up with six players in the Pro Bowl. Two of them declined to attend due to injuries, but the four defenders showed up. Out of the six, it was the first experience only for Minkah Fitzpatrick, the second-year safety whom they acquired via trade in-season in 2019.
Originally a first-round pick by the Miami Dolphins, 11th overall, in 2018, the Steelers sent over a first-round pick two games into the past season to acquire him. In the final 14 games, he recorded five interceptions, with one touchdown, and recovered two fumbles, scoring on one of them as well, also forcing a fumble and providing sound tackling. He played in coverage so well that eventually teams shied away from throwing in his area of coverage.
He’s 23 years old. You think this opportunity meant something to him? You don’t have to wonder. He told you after the game.
“It was fun, man, the whole week was a lot of fun”, he said. “My family enjoyed Orlando, Universal, Disney Land, the whole nine. Honestly, it’s a dream come true. You look forward to it your whole life. Now we’re here. And you just keep working, keep getting better. I just want to thank the NFL and the Pro Bowl for having us here”.
Even though the game means nothing, he still found his competitive juices flowing, especially when he sniffed out the chance for a pick, an opportunity he hasn’t seen often in the second half of the season. But Haden leapt in.
“Joe stole a pick from me, number one, that’s what I want to say”, he said, jokingly. “I was right there, and he came in and got it. But he’s a great player, and T.J., same thing. Nothing new, I’m used to it, seen it all year, and continued success”.
Between the two of them, they accounted for half of the Steelers’ defensive interceptions. That is why they were in the Pro Bowl, but neither of them took the moment for granted. They are at very different points in their career, but each cherished the moment from their unique point of view.