Two years on, I think by now that most would argue the Pittsburgh Steelers ‘won’ the trade with the Miami Dolphins that took place in September of 2019, which sent them safety Minkah Fitzpatrick in exchange for a first-round pick, as well as a flip of some late-round picks. They certainly didn’t ‘lose’.
Since being acquired, the former 11th overall pick out of Alabama has been named a first-team All-Pro twice. He has accumulated nine interceptions, with 20 passes defensed, two forced fumbles, and three defensive touchdowns along the way. He is clearly a part of the Steelers’ defensive core for the next generation.
And according to Pro Football Focus, he barely cracks the top five safeties in the NFL. They recently listed him fifth in their rankings, placed behind Justin Simmons of the Denver Broncos, Harrison Smith of the Minnesota Vikings, John Johnson III, who signed with the Cleveland Browns this offseason, and Marcus Williams of the New Orleans Saints. Sam Monson wrote on Fitzpatrick:
Since moving to Pittsburgh and being allowed to play his natural position, Fitzpatrick has blossomed into one of the best safeties in the NFL. Some of that play is built off the back of a couple of exceptional games, but he now has nine picks and 11 pass breakups over the last two seasons, including the playoffs.
I certainly think a case could be made that Fitzpatrick is better than Johnson and Williams, if not everybody on the list. But I can also see the side that believes there is still room for him to grow and to be even better. A little more consistency, for example, can go a long way.
As you might imagine, the Steelers’ other safety, Terrell Edmunds, is not on the list. In case you’re curious, the final five players to make the list of the top 32 are Jeremy Chinn of the Carolina Panthers, Juan Thornhill of the Kansas City Chiefs, Ronnie Harrison of the Browns (who is not even going to be a starter), Chuck Clark of the Baltimore Ravens, and Landon Collins of the Washington Football Team.
Of course, rankings are forgotten about almost as soon as they’re read, at least for most people. Truth be told, I’m not sure how ‘fueled’ by slights, perceived or otherwise, Fitzpatrick might be prone to being, but I do sense that he is an internally-motivated individual.
The 2021 season will be the final year of his rookie deal before he is scheduled to play on his fifth-year option next year, though, of course, he is expected to sign a very healthy extension before the 2022 season begins. When that happens, he may well become the highest-paid safety in the game. Put in another season like the last two, and it’s almost a guarantee.