The Pittsburgh Steelers invested a first-round pick in safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, after having already played 18 games for the Miami Dolphins, in 2019. You don’t make such a move for a player whom you don’t believe is going to be with you for the long term.
While that course is inevitable, Fitzpatrick nonetheless recently talked about the Steelers’ decision to pick up his fifth-year option as though it were a relief, rather than a given. Of course they were going to pick it up. And of course he’s not going to play under it before he signs a long-term contract next offseason. Both sides know he belongs here.
“I think it’s the right place for me, because they let me use my skillset”, he recently told Rodney Harrison on Safety Blitz for NBC Sports. “I’m a rangy guy, I’m an athlete, I’m a smart guy. So they let me move around in the middle of the field, in the half, come down into the coverage and whatnot”.
Fitzpatrick had some philosophical differences with the coaching staff in Miami about how he was being used, or as he would argue, misused, but he appreciates the Steelers for letting him he his best self. And that’s not just limited to where he’s playing, but how they push him.
“Coach T, he’s a great coach, but he challenges me at the same time”, he said of Mike Tomlin. “I love that. It’s never an easy day. He’s never gonna let me slack, whether it’s [Teryl Austin] or Grady Brown, or anybody else, they’re not gonna let me [slack] because I’m a two-time All-Pro, whatever whatever. That’s even more reason for them to push me and challenge me”.
Since arriving in Pittsburgh, he has compiled 136 tackles, with nine interceptions, 20 passes defensed, two forced fumbles, and three defensive touchdowns, including two pick sixes and one fumble recovered for a score.
His 30-game resume with the Steelers has certainly been impressive and indicates long-term consistency of performance, which is why it feels inevitable that the extension will come—not this offseason, as that’s T.J. Watt’s time, but a year from now.
“In terms of contract long-term, we haven’t been talking about it”, Fitzpatrick acknowledged, hopefully to nobody’s surprise. “We just signed the fifth-year [option], and I’m just gonna go out there this year, try to play my best, dominate, do what we do, and whatever happens happens after that”.
He enters his fourth season in the league, and third with the Steelers, but in a bit of a new-look secondary. Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton are both gone, two starters when he first arrived. Cameron Sutton will step into a starting role, but they’re exploring their options to find their next nickel defender, which right now, may be a race featuring James Pierre as the leader in the clubhouse, though it’s still quite early.