As more lists of the top players at their positions are getting cycled through heading into training camp for the 2021 NFL season, we continue to scour the lists looking for members of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Pro Football Focus has been shooting out their lists left and right as of late as teams are in the OTA stage of the offseason.
And here comes my standard PFF disclaimer yet again as their credibility continues to be an issue:
It seems like I can’t write an article about PFF without giving the typical disclaimer of how their projections can be highly questionable. Even their grading of players after the fact can be picked apart, so expecting them to do well in the prediction business is not something which I’m ready to bet the farm on based on their conclusions.
The next position on a list given by Pro Football Focus is safety. According to PFF, the Steelers’ Minkah Fitzpatrick comes in at number 5.
Justin Simmons— PFF (@PFF) June 1, 2021
John Johnson III@PFF_Sam ranks the top 32 safeties ahead of the 2021 NFL season ⬇️
Why Fitzpatrick ended up in the 5th spot is described below according to PFF:
Since moving to Pittsburgh and being allowed to play his natural position, Fitzpatrick has blossomed into one of the best safeties in the NFL. Some of that play is built off the back of a couple of exceptional games, but he now has nine picks and 11 pass breakups over the last two seasons, including the playoffs.
Although it is an accomplishment to land in the top five in the NFL, I once again have to ask if it is high enough for Fitzpatrick. Of the four players ahead of him, only one has ever been selected first team All-Pro in their career and that was Harrison Smith (2) in 2017. While Justin Simmons lanes on the top spot while reaching his first Pro Bowl in 2020, neither John Johnson (3) or Marcus Williams (4) have even been selected to the Pro Bowl. Yet two-time All-Pro Minkah Fitzpatrick comes in behind them for this coming season.
Perhaps PFF is simply not giving the love for the All-Pro players as Fitzpatrick was the highest ranked safety of any who landed on first team the last two season. Fellow All-Pro safeties from 2020 Tyrann Mathieu (11) and Buddha Baker (16) landed behind the player who shared the All-Pro honors with Fitzpatrick in 2019 in Jamal Adams (10).
In looking around the AFC North, John Johnson was signed by the Cleveland Browns this season and has the top spot in the 3rd position while teammate Ronnie Harrison cracked the list number 30. Jesse Bates of the Cincinnati Bengals also made the top 10 coming in at the 8th position. The Baltimore Ravens did get into the list with Chuck Clark coming in at 29th.
Projecting how players will perform in 2021 is very subjective and open to interpretation. The combination of past experience and career trajectory makes for an interesting debate during the offseason. What is more important would be to see Minkah Fitzpatrick be selected All-Pro for the third straight season as one of the top safeties in the NFL.