The Pittsburgh Steelers acquired free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick in the same week that they placed quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on injured reserve last season. In other words, the third-year safety has never gotten the opportunity to watch him work up close and personal before. But anybody who’s grown up in the past 15 years with football has watched the man play games. He’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer, after all.
With his injury in the middle of Week Two, most accepted the seemingly inevitable reality that the Steelers’ season was lost. The front office didn’t take that approach, and the acquisition of Fitzpatrick was a part of that. They made a commendable run at it, in fact going 7-1 during one stretch and putting themselves in position to clinch a wildcard berth, but the offense tanked out too hard at the end of the year.
Now with the defense more than the match of their offensive counterparts, and Roethlisberger coming back, the entire team is energized and frankly excited to find out what they can do together. Make no mistake, these guys have championship aspirations. And Fitzpatrick is just ready to see Big Ben in action.
“I expect him to be Ben Roethlisberger. He is a great player. A play maker. I saw last year, him being around the team and not even on the field, he is a great leader and a great man”, he told reporters earlier this week, via Bob Labriola. “A dude I like being around, I like hearing from. He has a lot of experience and wisdom to share. He is going to keep being himself. He is going to go out there, compete, challenge myself as a defensive player. He is going to go out there and make everybody else around him better like he has been doing for the past how many seasons”.
During the 2018 season, Roethlisberger led the league in completions and passing yards, and was high on the list in touchdowns with a career-high 34 as well. He led the league in interceptions with 16, but that requires some serious historical context, as that was the lowest total to lead the league since literally the 1930s. Jameis Winston had nearly twice as many interceptions in 2019, and Roethlisberger’s total would have hardly been noticed had it come in the same season.
Provided that the offensive line can still get the job done, there is no doubt that this is a talented offense. With JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Diontae Johnson, and Chase Claypool at wide receiver, Vance McDonald and Eric Ebron at tight end, and James Conner, Benny Snell, Jaylen Samuels, and Anthony McFarland at running back, they have a diverse and complementary group of weapons for Roethlisberger to conduct.