Now that the 2021 offseason has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we are seeing over the course of the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: S Minkah Fitzpatrick
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: After two seasons with the Steelers, safety Minkah Fitzpatrick has earned first-team All-Pro distinction two times.
Two years of stable high-end production is in itself an upward trajectory. After all, there isn’t much higher you can go than where Minkah Fitzpatrick has already been. Short of being the Defensive Player of the Year or the league’s Most Valuable Player, which is almost always a quarterback these days.
Playing in all 16 games last season and hardly missing a snap (he even played the season finale when some other starters rested, including T.J. Watt), he finished the year with 79 tackles, one shy of his career-high, coming close to duplicating his takeaway numbers. He recorded four interceptions and a recovered fumble while forcing a fumble. He also had a career-high 11 passes defensed, and he scored yet another defensive touchdown, now with four in his career (three with the Steelers).
There is something to be said for the fact that, after just two years, we are almost taking Fitzpatrick’s presence for granted. We are already operating under the assumption that he is going to be a long-term high-performing contributor, and the next best thing this side of Troy Polamalu.
But that’s because he hasn’t shown anything to suggest that won’t be the case. As long as the Steelers shell out the dough, and they won’t have to worry about extending him until next offseason, there is a justifiable high degree of confidence that he is going to continue to be instrumental to this defense for years to come. And that he will remain one of the top-performing players at his position.
Pittsburgh did something in order to get him that they had not done in decades — like, six decades. They gave up a first round pick and traded out of the round altogether in order to acquire Fitzpatrick via trade, two games into the 2019 season.
They may have missed the first 18 games of his professional career. But they’ve more than got their money’s worth on the early returns on investment during his first 30 games in Pittsburgh, with the promise of more of the same in the future.
But he does have to clean up his tackling technique and be more consistent with it. Fitzpatrick registered double-digit misses last season, some of them costly.