Minkah Fitzpatrick has been with the team throughout the spring, voluntary OTAs and the mandatory minicamp that just wrapped up, but he’s been on the sidelines for most of the time. Following TJ Watt’s plan last year, Fitzpatrick seems destined to “hold-in,” sitting out of practice until he gets a new contract.
Despite not being on the field, SS Terrell Edmunds says Fitzpatrick is still playing a key role.
“He’s still out there every day,” Edmunds told reporters via the team website. “Still out there speaking his mind. Still out there coaching us whenever he can. Just giving us pointers whenever he can. Being in the background…helping us on the field. Sometimes he might not be in the game. So you gotta have other guys who can be vocal, go out there and talk and be on the same page.”
Pittsburgh’s secondary is held together by Fitzpatrick, the two-time All-Pro and one of the top free safeties in football. But it’s a chance for new and young faces to see expanded roles like Tre Norwood, who appeared to be running first team safety in his absence. Damontae Kazee is a veteran but new to the Steelers and has the chance to be a Norwood-like Swiss Army Knife for the team.
Of course, the Steelers are better off whenever Fitzpatrick is on the field. And he’ll be out there Week One when the team travels to Cincinnati. He’ll also fly with the knowledge of being the highest-paid safety in football, a near-certainty to occur by summer’s end. Derwin James’ potential contract extension may slightly complicate things but the Steelers want to keep Fitzpatrick and by all accounts, he wants to remain in Pittsburgh. Just as with Watt, when there’s obvious mutual interest on both sides, a deal will get done.
As Edmunds’ notes, practicing without him offers the chance of not having to rely on him. Pittsburgh has gotten comfortable with seeing Fitzpatrick – and Edmunds for that matter – on the field. Fitzpatrick has started 32 of a possible 33 games the past two seasons and almost never comes off the field when he’s dressed. The only game he’s missed the past two seasons came in 2021 when a positive COVID test knocked him out of the Chargers game, one in which QB Justin Herbert threw for nearly 400 yards and three touchdowns.
Though every bit deserving of a contract, Fitzpatrick has quietly gone about his business this year and refused to even talk about his contract situation. Like Watt, he’s put his head down and worked and that’s one reason why he’s line for a mega payday. Until then, the Steelers will keep his seat warm and take advantage of the reps they get in case Fitzpatrick misses time during the regular season.