When the Pittsburgh Steelers and former GM Kevin Colbert sent a 2020 first-round pick, a 2020 fifth-round pick and a 2021 sixth-round pick to the Miami Dolphins on Sept. 16, 2019 for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, the organization believed they were getting a good safety that would help correct some years of mistakes in the secondary.
Fitzpatrick has been just that — and then some.
Since stepping into the starting role in the black and gold, Fitzpatrick has been a key versatile piece for the Steelers’ defense under head coach Mike Tomlin. From the 10 forced turnovers and two defensive touchdowns in his first season in the black and gold, to two First Team All-Pro accolades and two trips to the Pro Bowl, the trade by Colbert has paid off exponentially for the Steelers.
Fitzpatrick got paid too, signing a four-year, $73.5 million extension with the Steelers Wednesday, quickly putting an end to a possible summer ahead that dealt with endless speculation of not only when he would sign, but if he would participate in training camp or pull a “hold in” like T.J. Watt did last summer before signing days before the start of the 2022 season.
Speaking with Steelers.com’s Missi Matthews after signing his market-setting extension making him the highest-paid safety in the league Wednesday, Fitzpatrick outlined exactly what he believes he is for the Steelers, that being a smart, passionate player that brings a lot of versatility to the defense as a whole.
“I’m an athletic guy, a versatile guy, a guy that uses his IQ along with the athleticism and versatility,” Fitzpatrick said to Matthews, according to video via Steelers.com. “If you ask anybody about me on team, they’ll say I’m a passionate guy and I love what I do. So I think that just trickles over into every single area of how I play the game. So, I think I’m an athlete who’s smart and loves the game. And I think those are who I am.”
Quite frankly, that’s who Fitzpatrick has been his entire career in the spotlight, even dating back to his time at the University of Alabama under legendary head coach Nick Saban. During his time in Tuscaloosa, Fitzpatrick was praised nationally for his high football IQ and his overall versatility and athleticism in the secondary, being able to play the deep safety role, handle a box safety role, and even play in the slot for Saban.
He’s been able to do that in the NFL as well, though he had issues with it early in his career in Miami, ultimately leading to him requesting a trade and landing with the Steelers.
Though he’s moved around a bit in Pittsburgh, more often than not Fitzpatrick is tied to the post at deep safety, serving as a true eraser in the Steelers’ secondary, able to mask or cover up any mistakes in front of him, which is what all true, great safeties do in football.
Make no mistake about it: even with the down numbers in 2021 and the low grade he received from PFF last season, Fitzpatrick is still the same elite-level athlete that possesses a high football IQ for the Steelers, helping make Pittsburgh’s defense one of the best in football year after year when healthy.