By far the most important trait in the secondary is one that doesn’t show up in ways that are as obvious as others—unless it’s absent. Communication is the lifeblood of any good defensive unit, because without your players being on the same page as one another, things can go awry quickly, which results in big plays being allowed.
Even though he had to come in and learn on the fly, however, Pittsburgh Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick doesn’t believe the team suffered in that department last season once he arrived before the third game of the season.
“Honestly, we had a good chemistry last year”, he told reporters earlier today before practice. “I think because I was forced into it, I had to approach it at a headfirst way, and if I didn’t go into it that way and Joe and Steve and T didn’t, coaching up the way that they did, then we wouldn’t have had the success that we had”.
That being said, of course, he would not deny the fact that having a full offseason (or what counts for one amid a pandemic) was an asset, particularly in terms of building chemistry, which is something a bit more ephemeral that communication.
“I think it’s beneficial having this offseason with them”, he said, “but I think last year, we established really good chemistry, we established real good communication, which is really important between corners and the nickel and safeties”.
Instead of this process being about building those relationships, says Fitzpatrick, it’s been more about fine-tuning and perfecting. The foundation was already laid over the 14 games that they played together last season. Now it’s about making it as good as it can possibly get.
“This year was just putting a stamp on it, improving the little details”, said the third-year free safety. “Now, we’re communicating without even communicating. Just a little look and stuff like that is enough now. It’s definitely good. Still learning, as you’re playing with people, how they think and whatnot, but I think we have great chemistry and we’re just making it even better in this camp”.
It is generally true that the secondary played very well after his arrival last season, and by and large, communication was not an issue. But it’s hard to imagine that there is not room for improvement, given the timing of Fitzpatrick’s arrival.
Only positive things can come from this, of course. Earlier this offseason, he talked about how difficult it was during the first two weeks of the season while he was still with the Miami Dolphins, suddenly finding himself on the field with people he didn’t even know because of roster turnover. Now he’s built a relationship with everybody in this secondary.