The Pittsburgh Steelers made a trade last month which left fans both excited and anxious. Excited about the acquisition of safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, but anxious about what it took to obtain the former Alabama defensive back.
After the Steelers sent their top pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Steelers fans just wanted one thing — for Fitzpatrick to be worth it.
I don’t think anyone would argue this fact after he has spent the entire month of October with the team, registering 17 total tackles, 1 QB hit, 1 INT, 3 pass defenses and 1 forced fumble all in a four game stretch with the black-and-gold.
These are concrete facts, but what the Steelers, and mainly defensive coordinator Keith Butler, are realizing is just how Fitzpatrick can impact the defense.
“I think a lot of times it is the position. If you look at the safety position, those guys are really in the middle of it all, all the time. Not just in every situation, but every time the ball is snapped, the safeties are either in position or should be in position to make plays in case the front doesn’t make the plays in front of them. That is the biggest thing.” Butler said.
“He has done a good job for us. To me, he is very sudden. What I mean by that is once he realizes what is going on, he is quick to attack and do his job. I think that has probably helped us as much as anything else. “
Entering his fifth game in Pittsburgh, and more importantly coming off the bye week, you have to wonder at what point the coaches, and Fitzpatrick himself, will be given the freedom of the full playbook and ability to roam and make plays.
“We are trying to see what we can do with him.” Butler added. “Like I said, we are ever changing. We have to be ever changing if we want to get better. We can’t be running the same stuff over and over again. He understands that. I’m sure he probably had the same experience at Alabama. Nick Saban’s defense is not very simple. It is going to take the same thing in the National Football League. We can’t be really simple when we play people. We have to have certain shapes, getting in better defenses that we want to be in versus certain formations, stuff like that. We have to have guys who can make those decisions for us on the field. Not only that, but the guys that don’t make those decisions on the field listen to the guys who do make the decisions. He allows me to do that.”
Fitzpatrick getting comfortable in his new setting was also a topic of conversation at Mike Tomlin’s Tuesday press conference. Tomlin spoke of team chemistry, and getting players like Fitzpatrick and Nick Vannett, acquired via trade from the Seattle Seahawks, more in-tune with the system and what their job entails.
“I think we are developing in those ways particularly when you are talking about new components, whether it is Nick [Vannett] on the offensive side of the ball or Minkah on defense, just to get to know the communication, formal and informal, that comes with knowing people and having shared experiences. I think we are very much in development that way, but so are a lot of people.” Tomlin said.
Whether it is Fitzpatrick getting accustomed to the defense, or his teammates getting comfortable with his verbiage and/or movement on the field, the coaching staff is just starting to unwrap their proven commodity at safety the team obtained via trade. When you look at it this way, the possibilities are endless.