The Pittsburgh Steelers ended the 2019 season much as they did the 2018 season, by allowing their playoff fate slip out of their grasp. Slow starts and slow finishes permeated both campaigns, with strong runs in between. But while the results were the same missing the playoffs, the means were quite different.
Yet again, they find themselves undergoing the exit meeting process earlier than anticipated, which means so are we. But that they still managed to go 8-8 without Ben Roethlisberger, and with the general quality of play that they faced along the way, I suppose things could have been worse.
While we might not know all the details about what goes on between Head Coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2018 season.
Player: Minkah Fitzpatrick
Experience: 2 Years
How often do you make a trade for a player in the early portions of a season only to watch him become an All-Pro before your eyes? As I type this, I frankly can’t help but wonder how many times in the past a player traded midseason went on to become first-team All-Pro that same year, especially a trade early in the season, for a player who had never been All-Pro before. Marcus Peters was traded and became first-team All-Pro, but he played six games with the Rams with good numbers before being traded, and had been first-team All-Pro before.
In Fitzpatrick’s case, he was a young player who spent 14 of his 16 games in 2019 with a completely new team, requiring that he learn an entirely new defense when he was probably still learning the old defense. His first-team All-Pro status was based pretty much entirely on what he was able to do with the team to which he was traded, which is remarkable, and a testament not only to his abilities but his adaptability.
The second-year free safety had a transformative impact on the defense, settling into the injured Sean Davis’ spot and instantly helping turn the secondary into one of the best in the league, one against which the deep ball could not be thrown. It helped that he picked off five passes himself, the first time any Steeler had more than three since 2010.
By the time he had four interceptions in a three-game span, offenses tired of throwing in his direction, and for the second half of the season, quarterbacks hardly ever threw in his area of the field. The Steelers observed this, and they want to work on ways of disguising him better in 2020 so that offenses can’t try to take him away, putting him in positions opponents don’t expect him to be.
That’s a much better problem to have than the ones they usually do at free safety.