Since joining the Pittsburgh Steelers in an in-season trade in 2019 from the Miami Dolphins, safety Minkah Fitzpatrick has become a star, holding down the Steelers’ secondary overall while becoming the true big-play safety many thought he could be coming out of Alabama.
Now, with a market-setting extension in place after signing a four-year, $73.6 million deal with the Steelers on Wednesday, Fitzpatrick is paid as such and will be with the Steelers for the long term.
Though he had a bit of a down year in 2021, in terms of turnover numbers, Fitzpatrick remains one of the very best centerfield-type safeties in football. His addition into the Steelers’ defense in 2019 helped transform that side of the football for the black and gold, allowing Pittsburgh to do a number of new things up front thanks to the stability and versatility in the secondary with Fitzpatrick in the fold.
On this day in 2008, Ed Reed ran back an interception 107 yards for a touchdown, longest INT return in NFL history. One of the all-time great performances that day by one of the all-time greats: 2 INTs for 150 return yards, 1 TD, 4 passes defensed pic.twitter.com/TLGAXtflmD
— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) November 23, 2019
On Thursday, while discussing Fitzpatrick’s extension with the Steelers and what he brings to the table overall, ESPN NFL analyst Dan Orlovsky, a former quarterback in the NFL for seven seasons, dropped an interesting comparison for Fitzpatrick on NFL Live, stating that the Steelers’ star safety brings a little bit of an Ed Reed-like presence to the Steelers’ secondary.
“At the snap, is he going back towards the sideline, back towards the middle of the field? Is he dropping down? Is it single high? Is it two-high safety? And he’s constantly lying to the quarterback with his pre-snap and post-snap disguise,” Orlovsky said on NFL Live, according to video via ESPN.com. “It maybe doesn’t force one mistake on that play, but what it does is you start to play slower and slower and slower as a quarterback in trusting your eyes and what you’re seeing.
“It forces hesitation, and then it catches up to you later in the game,” Orlovsky added regarding Fitzpatrick. “It’s very Ed Reed-like when it comes to that position. I think that’s really what he brings as a secondary and as a safety player, and why that Steelers’ defense has gotten so much better since he got there.”
That’s quite the comparison and high praise for Fitzpatrick, and it might not be that far off.
Of course, Reed was arguably the best safety in the game throughout his career with the Baltimore Ravens — right there with Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu — before ultimately landing in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Reed was known as that ball-hawking safety in the middle of some great Ravens’ defenses, being able to fly around, patrol the middle of the field and get his hands on footballs at a high rate. In his 13-year career (11 with the Ravens), Reed picked off 64 passes and had seven returns for touchdowns.
I must ask, was this pick-6 by Minkah Fitzpatrick against the Colts the play of the season for the #Steelers?
If it's not, what would your choice be?pic.twitter.com/docQyKiwGm
— Steelers Depot 7⃣ (@Steelersdepot) December 31, 2019
Three times in his career he led the league in interceptions with nine in 2004 and 2008, and eight in 2010. In fact, Reed had at least seven interceptions in a season five times in his career, which is truly remarkable.
Fitzpatrick has a long way to go to reach Reed’s level overall, but the skillsets are similar as Orlovsky points out. Having a guy with the versatility and instincts like Fitzpatrick on the back end has allowed the Steelers to disguise things much more up front, from blitzes and coverages, which has helped Pittsburgh’s re-shaped defense reach a new level in recent seasons.