Location: LATROBE, PA — Minkah Fitzpatrick competed against wide receiver George Pickens in recent one-on-one drills with the Steelers. It was a great opportunity for both players, as Fitzpatrick could try out some new strategies against a rising star and the highly touted rookie could see how he stacks up against an All-Pro safety.
For a few seconds, the entire practice, from players and coaches to fans and media, was riveted on the Pickens-Fitzpatrick showdown. At the end of the day, the young gun came out on top, but the real victor was the Steelers, who benefited from one of their best players’ willingness to risk public ridicule in order to do what he knew was right in front of thousands of people.
Fitzpatrick said of him after practice, “He’s a great player,” to CBS Sports. I lined up in front of him as one of the ways we’re challenging him. Since we haven’t lined up in front of him much thus far in camp, we figured it was time to throw a curveball his way. Even for me, it’s different. It felt good to get back to that after a long break. We were both far from our usual routines and routines, challenging and pushing each other, and getting real work done.
Fitzpatrick is one of the last Steelers to leave the field after practice, so he is practically synonymous with the word “working.” It’s no secret that Najee Harris, another ex-Alabama player, is infamous for staying late at the gym.
On Thursday, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin told reporters, “that’s probably because Minkah makes him.” To some extent, Minkah can be thought of as his older brother. He’s known him since he was eighteen, so their friendship is deep.
The trade that sends Fitzpatrick to Pittsburgh from Miami in September of 2019 may go down as one of the best in franchise history. In a trade involving multiple draft picks, including the Dolphins’ first-round pick in the 2020 Draft, the Steelers were able to acquire Fitzpatrick (who was just beginning his second season at the time) from them.
Only 25 years old, Fitzpatrick has already made a name for himself as one of the NFL’s top defensive players in Pittsburgh. In his first two seasons with the Steelers, he made a ton of big plays, including three defensive touchdowns and nine interceptions. Because of his remarkable ball-catching skills, Fitzpatrick was named to the All-Pro team for three years in a row.
PIT • FS • 39 Browse Profiles See Full ProfileMinkah Fitzpatrick
As opposed to the previous season, Fitzpatrick’s influence was felt in a different way this time around. Injuries all along Pittsburgh’s defensive line forced Fitzpatrick to shift his focus from being a ball-hawking playmaker to a run stopper. Quite frequently, he was tasked with halting small gains from snowballiing into significant advantages. Fitzpatrick led the Steelers with a career-high 124 tackles, but his turnover production suffered as a result. He also had two interceptions, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.
Fitzpatrick has stated that he is willing to make any necessary changes to his game in order to help the team win. “It was getting a lot of turnovers the year before last and a lot of tackles the year before that. No matter what happens, this year will happen.
Fitzpatrick’s selflessness has won over his Steelers teammates and management. This offseason, the Steelers gave him a four-year extension that made him the highest-paid safety in the NFL because of his stellar play, which undoubtedly helped his stock rise.
Fitzpatrick said, “It’s definitely an honor” to be given a new contract. If you want to play for and in a great city, Pittsburgh is it. I am grateful and blessed. I’m just going to keep plugging away at it and try to improve a little bit each and every day.
After spending a little over a year with two different NFL teams, Fitzpatrick has settled in with the Steelers and looks to spend the rest of his career in the black and gold. Fitzpatrick, like those legendary athletes before him, is driven by a desire to win at all costs, but is equally motivated by a desire to see those around him succeed.
Tomlin remarked, “This is where Minkah’s serious competitiveness comes out.” Every time, he tries to join in, I have to turn him away. Among his desired defensive duties are covering receivers and rushing backs, as well as blitzing. All he is is a football player. This guy is a huge football fan. He thrives in competitive situations and is always a positive presence in a group. He’s always up for a challenge, and he’s always prepared to get to work.
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