While plenty of key, veteran leaders remain on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense this season, a changing of the guard is slowly but surely happening, especially in the defensive secondary.
Veteran cornerback Joe Haden has held the mantra of veteran leader in the secondary since coming to the Steelers in the summer of 2017 after the Cleveland Browns surprisingly cut the standout cornerback. Since then, Haden has taken a number of players under his wing in the secondary, turning what was once a weakness in the middle of the 2010s in Pittsburgh into a strength.
Now, Minkah Fitzpatrick is doing the same thing, according to Haden, who spoke to reporters Thursday.
Fitzpatrick, in his fourth season in the NFL and third overall with the Steelers following a September 2019 trade to Pittsburgh, is now taking young players like James Pierre and Tre Norwood under his wing and is really finding his leadership voice, according to Haden.
“Minkah’s more of a….he doesn’t speak too much. I mean, that’s just him, you know, you can’t make them talk, but when we’re out in the field, he’s doing a whole lot more just of emphasizing how, what he sees, what he likes, you know, and that’s the main thing,” Haden said to reporters according to Steelers.com. “Like, he don’t have to say anything to anybody when we’re in those meetings. When he speaks you listen, because he doesn’t just say anything for no reason. So he’s kind of doing that, and you got to respect him. When I was younger in the league too, you can show people better than you can tell them, so all the talking isn’t really doing anything. Minkah comes out here and performs. So then when he speaks in the meeting room, everybody listens.”
Fitzpatrick certainly isn’t a vocal guy, and he hasn’t been dating back to his days at Alabama under Nick Saban. What he is though is a performer, one that steps up to the plate and produces in big spots time and time again, which has allowed him to earn trust and respect in the Steelers’ locker room, especially in what was once a veteran secondary and is now trending towards the younger side in terms of age and overall experience.
The fourth-year safety seems to see an opportunity to become that defensive secondary leader, leading him take a young cornerback in Pierre and a young safety in Norwood under his wings, trying to help develop them in any way, shape, or form that he can now that he has some equity in Pittsburgh.
“…I think I’m definitely the point where I’m taking them under my wing,” Fitzpatrick said on The Pat McAfee Show Thursday. “You know, all the DBs, me, Tre and Cam [Sutton], just taking them in and telling them look like, this is just how it moves. I would do it this right here, teach them the scheme. You know what I’m saying? And then just coach them up. You know what I’m saying? And most of the time we just say, just watch, just watch it and learn, you know what I’m saying? And that’s how we teach around here.”