Not everybody is goal-oriented, or responded to goal-oriented thinking. Those who are positively driven by goals, however, are often able to use them to push themselves to their limits. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ Minkah Fitzpatrick is one such person, and he’s got a handful of goals set out for himself. One of them is to be the Defensive Player of the Year after his teammate, T.J. Watt, claimed that crown in 2021
“That is the goal. Competing with him for it“, he recently told Teresa Varley for the team’s website as part of a longform article about the fifth-year safety and what drives him. It’s an article that is well worth taking the time to read on its own.
The Steelers have more Defensive Player of the Year award winners and total wins than any other franchise. With Watt’s win last season, it marked their seventh different player winning the award following Joe Greene (twice), Mel Blount, Jack Lambert, Rod Woodson, James Harrison, and Troy Polamalu.
No other team has more than four total wins, that distinction belonging to the Baltimore Ravens (Terrell Suggs, Ed Reed, and Ray Lewis twice). And no other team, of course, has more than three recipients, the Steelers having more than double.
It certainly wouldn’t be shocking if Fitzpatrick were to eventually win one. He has been one of the best defensive backs in the league since the Steelers first acquired him in 2019, a two-time first-team All-Pro and among the league leaders in takeaways during that time.
And so much of it is owed simply to his drive and competitiveness, though he says that he has learned to channel it better in recent years, rather than playing angry. “I would get angry and start playing angry. That can be a good thing, but it can also lead to you making mistakes you don’t normally make”, he said.
“I learned over the last two years you are going to get beat. You want to be upset that you lost a rep. If you don’t get upset, then you aren’t really a competitor”, Fitzpatrick added. “But you don’t want to be fueled by anger when you go into your next rep. You want to put it in the back of your mind and learn from the last rep and approach the next rep with a chip on your shoulder because you lost the last rep, not because you are emotionally tripping”.
There have been some occasions at the ends of plays during which his emotions come out, but I admittedly can’t recall any actual in-play moments during which he was clearly making mistakes because he was distracted about a previous play.
Fitzpatrick ranks third in tackles thus far, although he has an extra game up on most teams in the league right now. He’s in a four-way tie for second with two interceptions, owning one of the five pick-sixes thus far this year, and one of eight total defensive touchdowns. It’s not a bad start to a potential DPOY campaign, though he has to keep it up, if not even step it up.