Whether or not the situations ultimately work out, for the most part, the players that the Pittsburgh Steelers tend to bring into the organization from the outside to tend to enjoy their stay, with some notable exceptions. There is a certain running back who lasted about half a season who’s name comes to mind. Perhaps Donte Moncrief wasn’t thrilled, either. Then again, neither were the Steelers or their fans.
One transaction that has so far been a smashing success was one of the team’s most recent. Pittsburgh sent its 2020 first-round draft pick to the Miami Dolphins in September in exchange for Minkah Fitzpatrick, the second-year safety 18 games into his career since being selected with the 11th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Fitzpatrick is a player that the Steelers coveted at the time of the draft but knew they would have no shot of getting him so high. They ended up acquiring him for an 18th-overall pick in a season in which they didn’t have Ben Roethlisberger.
And it hasn’t been a one-way love affair, as he has seemed to genuinely enjoy his time with the team, bonding well with his fellow players, and perhaps most importantly having an appreciation for what the defense has asked of him, and how the defense is run in general.
“I am comfortable on the field”, he told ESPN last week. He said that the team “just allowed me to play fast and do what I do. That is the thing I like about here — we run what we run, and we run it well. We don’t try to do too much, don’t try to change it up week to week”.
As you surely know, Fitzpatrick made an immediate impact after being traded, recording an interception and a forced fumble in his first game. He recorded five interceptions in total, and recovered two fumbles as well, scoring two defensive touchdowns.
He went on to earn Pro Bowl recognition, the first by a Steelers safety since Troy Polamalu, of course, and then added first-team All-Pro distinctions to his list of achievements as well. He joined fellow defenders T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward on the All-Pro team, while cornerback Joe Haden was added to the Pro Bowl roster as well.
All four of those players more or less represent the core of the Steelers’ defense going forward, both on and off the field, along with Devin Bush as he moves into his second season. Fitzpatrick might be the newest face, but he fit right in immediately.
Seemingly the only regret that he has is that defenses began to shy away from him as the season wore on, preventing him from having many opportunities to make plays, which he plans to work on this offseason.
“When you move around and you’re a moving piece on the chessboard, it’s hard to defend and you can’t just say, ‘all right, the quarterback is going to look at me and say he’s going to be in this spot every snap’, like I was last year”, he said. “It’s going to be harder and it’s going to be more difficult to take me out of the game.”.