The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: The Steelers should be more creative with Minkah Fitzpatrick this season to help them mask talent deficiencies in the secondary.
Explanation: When asked about possible changes to his role this upcoming season in light of the departures of Mike Hilton and Steven Nelson, safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who is a free safety but has a versatile skill set, said that he doesn’t anticipate much, adding, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. But if it’s the secondary as a whole that is broken because of a talent drain, and he can help fill that void, perhaps it should be considered.
One of the reasons Minkah Fitzpatrick wanted a trade from the Miami Dolphins is because they wouldn’t let him settle into a role. But really, they were trying to use him as a box defender and disregarding his strengths. That’s not the sort of thing we’re talking about here. What I have in mind is rolling down into the slot more often (something any free safety already does on occasion), perhaps disguised in some packages, and things of that nature.
The Steelers have other versatile defenders like Cameron Sutton and now Arthur Maulet capable of rolling back and fulfilling a safety role if Pittsburgh pushes Fitzpatrick down inside. He is a skilled man defender who is capable of making aggressive plays. And he even talked at the end of the 2019 season of wanting to be a chess piece so that defenses couldn’t as easily key on and avoid him.
If you want to move somebody around, move Sutton. He can play any position in the secondary, and has experience moving around a lot. He started on both the left and right at cornerback as well as in the slot just last season.
Fitzpatrick is an elite free safety. Just let him be that, to start out. If for some reason it looks like the secondary is in major trouble and they can orchestrate a way in which him moving around the field more is a cure for that, then we can have that conversation. But as he was saying, don’t run the risk of creating a problem that wasn’t there to try to fix another problem you’re not even sure you have yet.
There are still a number of young defensive backs the Steelers have to examine this offseason. Between Justin Layne, James Pierre, Tre Norwood, Shakur Brown, and others, one of them is bound to be able to contribute.