The Pittsburgh Steelers are back in the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex earlier than they had anticipated, having been ousted from the postseason in the opening round, which unfortunately marks the fifth consecutive season in which they failed to win a postseason game—a new record for the franchise since the merger. Yet again, they find themselves undergoing the exit meeting process earlier than anticipated, which means so are we.
The Steelers did arguably perform at or above expectations this year by going 9-7-1 and making the postseason at all, a reflection of just how much talent they lost during the offseason, from the majority of the offensive line to Mike Hilton, Bud Dupree, Steven Nelson, and Vince Williams—not to mention Stephon Tuitt, essentially.
While we might not know all the details about what goes on between head coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2021 season.
Player: Minkah Fitzpatrick
Experience: 4 Years
Man, I wish a down year for me looked anything like a down year for Minkah Fitzpatrick. The four-year veteran free safety may have failed to make the Pro Bowl this year, nevermind the All-Pro list, but he still played well, and served a critical clean-up function in the defense.
After all, he did finish the season with an unconscionable 124 tackles, which is by far the highest in team history by a defensive back, and among the top-10 in total tackles for any position in recorded team history (tackle statistics, mind you, only go so far back, and so don’t account for the 1970s teams, for example).
He earned those 124 tackles, though. A lot of them were ‘clean-up’ tackles when the front seven allowed runs to spill into the third level, himself acting as a last line of defense against a much bigger, and much worse, outcome.
Aside from that, Fitzpatrick continued to be effective in coverage. He did drop a couple of would-be interceptions, but he still got two for his troubles, and he had seven passes defensed as well, with almost all of them coming in the second half of the season.
The Steelers started off the year spending a lot more time moving him around after they lost a couple of starters in the secondary in the offseason, as they were exploring their options. The group as a whole didn’t really start to settle down until the second half of the season, and that’s when we started to see more of the ‘old’ Minkah.
He is still the best first-round pick outside of T.J. Watt that the Steelers have spent in the past decade, since drafting Cameron Heyward in 2011. David DeCastro and Ryan Shazier can posit their cases, but trading their 2020 first-round pick for Fitzpatrick in 2019 was one of the team’s most important and valuable moves in some time. Which is why they’re going to do whatever it takes this offseason to keep him.