Minkah Fitzpatrick has yet to miss a game since arriving in the NFL via the first round in 2018. He played his first 18 with the Miami Dolphins, who drafted him 11th overall out of Alabama. The rest of his career came for the Pittsburgh Steelers, where Fitzpatrick blossomed into one of the best free safeties in football, and a two-time first-team All-Pro.
Complicated circumstances led to Fitzpatrick’s availability via trade. It included a regime change in the coaching staff, and a belief that the team intended to tank. Fitzpatrick also felt that the coaching staff was misusing his talents. And so the hook was dangled, and the Steelers obliged with a first-round pick, giving Fitzpatrick what he wanted: Stability at one position.
That’s not to say that he can’t do other things, or that he won’t, as he told Rodney Harrison on the Safety Blitz program through NBC Sports recently. “I could do it, but I think right now, what’s best for the team is where I’m at”, he said, when asked about moving around more like he did in Miami and Alabama.
He noted that they have other players who move around more, such as Terrell Edmunds, his partner at safety. “We’ve got guys, TE, he blitzes, he’s in the game on sacks, he does a really good job in doing that. We’re a good one-two punch. We’ve got other guys around us that help us out”, he said.
But at the end of the day, it’s about trusting the coaches and believing that they know what’s best. The Dolphins had a rookie head coach in Brian Flores at the time. You don’t have much cache under those circumstances, so it’s tough to get a pedigreed player to buy into doing something that he feels is intuitive.
“If Coach [Mike Tomlin] asks us to move around, of course we’ll do it, because we know that’ll probably be best for the team if he says so”, he said, in contrast, if he were approached about it now. “We’re willing to do anything, but I think we’re good with where our roles are at”.
Following his first season with the Steelers at the end of 2019, Fitzpatrick actually did talk about wanting to move around more, about being a chess piece for the defense, because he felt that offenses were able to just key on him as the season progressed, and thereby avoid him.
He doesn’t become that chess piece last year, but he still managed four interceptions with 11 passes defensed all the same. He also had a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. As Harrison prodded him about, he’s still looking for his first NFL sack, of which he had five back in school.