Pittsburgh Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick was a first-team All-Pro and a Pro Bowler last season and that wasn’t too surprising based on how he played in the 14 games that followed him being acquired via a trade with the Miami Dolphins in Week 3. However, most of Fitzpatrick’s snaps in the Steelers defense last season came with him playing way off the line of scrimmage and that seemingly resulted in opposing quarterbacks shying away from him during the final quarter of the schedule. While at the Pro Bowl, Fitzpatrick admitted he was open to moving around more in the Steelers defense in 2020. On Tuesday, Fitzpatrick was asked if being more versatile in 2020 during his Zoom press conference with the media
“Last year coming in, at the time, I didn’t know the playbook as well as I do now,” said Fitzpatrick per steelers.com. “The coaches wanted to keep it simple for me and they did. I appreciate that. If the coaches want me to move around, I’ll move around. If they don’t, then I dont need to. But I wouldn’t say it’s a goal. But if they need me to move around, I’m going to try to learn the system and get it down to a “T” so just in case I have to, or if they ask me to move, I can move.”
After recording four interceptions in his first six games with the Steelers after being acquired from the Dolphins via a trade, Fitzpatrick was targeted just twice over the final eight weeks of the season as opposing offenses simply stopped throwing the ball anywhere near him. That stat came courtesy of our own defensive charting done by Alex Kozora. On Tuesday, Fitzpatrick was asked if he noticed that teams were throwing away from him late last season.
“I think teams started taking less shots downfield, less shots at where I was,” said Fitzpatrick. “If I was in the middle of the field, they weren’t going to be throwing it into the middle of the field. If I was in the half, they weren’t going to be targeting that area. Wherever I was. I don’t know if it was game plan, or just decision making by the quarterback, but I did realize a difference.”
It seems like a forgone conclusion that Fitzpatrick will need to move around some in 2020. Doing so could result in some confusion by the opposing offense and possibly even a turnover or two.
The Steelers 2020 schedule includes them playing a lot of inexperienced quarterbacks. Six of those games will be AFC North tilts against quarterbacks Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield, and Joe Burrow. Additionally, the Steelers are scheduled to square off against a few more very inexperienced quarterbacks in 2020 in Dwayne Haskins, Gardner Minshew, Daniel Jones, and Drew Lock.
You can count on a few of the more experienced quarterbacks that the Steelers are scheduled to face in 2020, Deshaun Watson, Ryan Tannehill, Carson Wentz, Dak Prescott, and Philip Rivers, to very mindful of where Fitzpatrick is at on the field at all times.
We’ll have to see how things ultimately shake out for Fitzpatrick and his usage in the Steelers defense once the regular season gets underway. In the meantime, however, the former first-round draft pick out of Alabama seems open to moving around as much as the team’s coaches need him to.
“There isn’t too much I can do,” Fitzpatrick said when asked if there’s anything he can do in 2020 to prevent opposing quarterbacks from attempting to avoid him.”Terrell (Edmunds) and I can maybe move around and switch roles sometimes. Schematically, it’s all up to the coaches if they want to move me somewhere else, they will do that or have me do something I don’t normally do on a specific play or down and distance. It’s up to the coaches.”