There are a lot of qualities, both tangible and intangible, that go into making a great team, a great unit, or even a great player. Some you teach, some you adjust to, and some you just have to have. When it comes to a team sport, however, there may be no greater intangible asset than the willingness to sacrifice personal preference or achievement for the betterment of the whole.
Two-time All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick believes that the Pittsburgh Steelers secondary possesses that in spades, and that quality, coupled with the sheer talent of players like Joe Haden and Mike Hilton and Steven Nelson, is why they are one of the top defensive back groups in the NFL, something that he explained in a recent conversation with Teresa Varley.
“In a lot of defensive backs rooms, selflessness is not the number one attribute. We have a group that is willing to do whatever for the team”, he said on the team’s website. “We understand when we do some things, give up some things, have roles that aren’t the most fun, the most crowd awing experiences, we are doing what is best for the team and what is going to help the team win”.
“We don’t have any guys that complain when they are asked to do something that might not suit them the best”, he added. “We just have a lot of guys that are willing to do things that not a lot of guys on other secondaries are willing to do. I would say that is probably our biggest thing, that makes us really good, on top of our talent”.
These qualities apply to everybody in the secondary. The outside cornerbacks in the Steelers’ system, even to this day, are asked to provide run support more than or as much as any other secondary in the NFL. Mike Hilton is arguably the most versatile slot defender there is. As for Cameron Sutton, he has been a jack of all trades for quite some time now. And Fitzpatrick can be something of a chess piece in his own right.
Sometimes it’s in a team’s best interest to let a player be, however, rather than move him out of his comfort zone. For the most part, you want your players doing what they do best as often as possible. But the Steelers are fortunate to have a group of football players willing to go out and do whatever job they are called upon to do.
And they produce, too. Nobody in the NFL has more interceptions over the course of the past two seasons than do the Steelers. They rank favorably against their peers in just about any other metric you want to put up as well, even if that doesn’t always satisfy the fan base.