Now that the regular season has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of the offseason and the regular season as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning. In some cases, it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances, it will be a direct response to something that just happened. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: S Minkah Fitzpatrick
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: The veteran safety had perhaps his best, and certainly his most physical game of the season Monday night against the Chicago Bears.
We haven’t turned up Minkah Fitzpatrick’s name a ton of times this season, and that’s partly because he hasn’t been doing what he ordinarily does: Turning the ball over. After recording nine interceptions over the previous two seasons, he is now through eight games this year without even one. In fact, it was 15 games ago that he last picked off a pass.
That’s not to say that he isn’t playing well, though admittedly this has not been his best season. By and large, that was not the case this week, displaying pretty much a new level of physicality in his game that we haven’t really seen before, at least to the extent that we saw last night.
He put down a few big hits during the game, including a bit sideline collision with Bears quarterback Justin Fields on third down as he was running out of bounds. That was just one play after he laid a hit on wide receiver Marquise Goodwin.
As always, though, so much of what he does doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. When he reads a quarterback to rob an underneath throw and forces him to hold the ball instead of getting rid of it, resulting in a sack or a pressure, generally a failed play, he only gets credit for that from his coaches, not the general public.
The Steelers’ secondary on the whole this season has taken a step back, though that should be little surprise given that they lost two starters in the offseason. The backstep, however, hasn’t been because of Fitzpatrick. He’s blown a couple of plays here and there, sure—he put the big Henry Ruggs score back in Week 2 on his shoulders, for example—but this is a guy who does things most other safeties simply don’t do, whether they are noticed or not.