Minkah Fitzpatrick has already shown in a short amount of time that he is very much capable of playing the safety position at the highest level in the NFL. In just 14 games with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2019, in his second year in the league, he earned first-team All-Pro honors while having a transformative effect on the defense as a whole, helping them become one of the best units in the league.
That doesn’t mean he still doesn’t have a thing or two to learn, and leave it up to Ben Roethlisberger to teach him a lesson.
Remember, Roethlisberger was placed on the reserve/injured list the same week that the Steelers acquired Fitzpatrick via trade last year. The Steelers and the Miami Dolphins didn’t play in 2018. So he’s never seen Roethlisberger, nor his notorious pump fake, until training camp last month.
And he had quite a reaction when asked about seeing it for the first time earlier this evening while appearing on SiriusXM. “Oh man, what? He has the best. The best”, he told Pat Kirwan of Big Ben’s pump fake. “I mean, he pumps the ball so many times it’s crazy. But yeah, he definitely has a good one. I was telling him, because I haven’t gone against him until this camp, and when he did it the first couple times, I’m like, ‘man, that’s different. I haven’t seen that that much’”.
The pump fake has been a staple of Roethlisberger’s arsenal since going back to college, making good use of his size and big hands to fool defensive backs into biting, often leading to big plays down the field. 17 years on, he is still doing it.
“It almost looks like he wants to throw the ball to that receiver and he just pulls it back, but he’s really jump pump-faking”, Fitzpatrick said. “That gets you to bite so much, because I’m coached to, you know, once the ball is let go, I’m ready to break. Usually, guys will do the two-hand pump fake, they’ll use their shoulders to try and pump fake you, and that usually doesn’t work”.
“Ben knows that we’re coached that way, so he lets go of the ball, even releases it forward sometimes, and it’ll definitely get you off your path and mess up your angles and whatnot”, he went on. “Going against that every day—now I learned that. Now I know, I have to wait, because I know he’s gonna pump fake it like that, so I know I’ve got to wait one or two pump fakes before I actually go and get it”.
A year after spending practice working against Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges and Paxton Lynch, Fitzpatrick is getting a totally different experience practicing against Roethlisberger. That will only serve to make himself, and thus by extension the entire defense, better for it in 2020 and beyond.