It can be difficult at times, especially on the surface, to ascertain how a free safety is performing if he is not making splash plays. While Ed Reed, for example, is one of the greatest free safeties to ever play the game, he was primarily defined by his ability to intercept the ball, even though he had a very complete game that was not always obvious.
This problem of observation is what has largely led to some being critical, even highly critical, of Minkah Fitzpatrick so far this season, at least outside of his pick six two games ago. After all, I did include him in my stock watch series this week as stock down, citing his fourth-down penalty at the goal line and the failure to stop A.J. Brown on the 73-yard touchdown.
That was a rough stretch, but it certainly doesn’t define what he has been able to do this year. Still, even he acknowledges that he has not been where he wants to be so far this year. “At this point in the season, as far as playing the best of the best football right now, I would say that I’m not at the level that I need to be”, he told reporters on Wednesday.
“That’s just the type of player I am. I don’t think I’m doing a bad job, I don’t think I’m doing a terrible job. I’m doing my job. You know what I’m saying?”, he asked. “Everybody’s big on splash plays and doing other fancy stuff and this stuff like that, but there’s things I could do better for sure. I could definitely tackle better. I’ve been missing a lot of tackles, haven’t been wrapping up”.
“But besides that, I’m gonna do my job, keeping a lid on the top of the defense, communicating, making sure people are in the right spot, and that’s it really”, he added. “It’s not about splash plays all the time. it’s not about doing all the big things. It’s about doing your job, and that’s how you win games, collectively, is everybody doing their job”.
While the Steelers have given up a few more explosive plays through the air this season than they would likely care for, they still have one of the most solid passing defenses in the league in a year in which passing, yardage, and scoring in general has been up—in part because of a downturn in flags being thrown, but also likely as a product of the limited offseason.
One thing I don’t think anybody should ever worry about as far as Fitzpatrick goes is complacency, similar to T.J. Watt. He’s never going to stop working on his game and trying to get better. So even if he struggles for a game or two, it’s not like he’s going to be unaware of that and accept that level of play.