The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is over, already eliminated from the postseason after suffering a 42-21 loss at the hands of Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. They just barely made the postseason with a 9-7-1 record and a little help from their friends.
This is an offseason of major change, with the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger, the possible retirement of general manager Kevin Colbert, and the decisions about the futures of many important players to be made, such as Joe Haden, Stephon Tuitt, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and others—some already decided, some not.
Aside from exploring their options at the quarterback position, the top global priority, once again, figures to be addressing the offensive line, which they did not do quite adequately enough a year ago. Dan Moore Jr. looks like he may have a future as a full-time starter, but Kendrick Green was clearly not ready. Chukwuma Okorafor was re-signed, but Trai Turner was not. James Daniels and Mason Cole were added in free agency.
These are the sorts of topics among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked. There is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.
Question: Will Minkah Fitzpatrick return to All-Pro status in 2022 in a more stable secondary?
It would not be fair to say that the 2021 season met the most adverse of circumstances Minkah Fitzpatrick has seen on a football field in a Steelers uniform. After all, he was plugged into the starting lineup just five days after being traded as a second-year player in 2019. That was probably a little more trying than being asked to move around on the field a bit more at the beginning of 2021.
But the Steelers asked him to do that because they were in the midst of change in the back end, with Steven Nelson released and especially with Mike Hilton leaving in free agency. They had no replacement for Hilton, and so they started out the season trying different options, which left Fitzpatrick’s role unsettled.
Although his early struggles last year were, I believe, somewhat exaggerated—or significantly so by some sources—his second half of last season showed him to be the player we have known him to be in Pittsburgh, as one of the top safeties in the NFL.
Despite putting down plenty of quality tape last season, and having the cache of being a two-years-running first-team All-Pro, Fitzpatrick failed to meet with distinction last season, not even being named to the Pro Bowl.
Now, with a more stable group around him that will allow him to fully concentrate on playing free safety again, can he avoid a slower start and reclaim his position as one of the top safeties, with the figurative hardware—post-season accolades—that go along with it?