The Pittsburgh Steelers know what they have in Minkah Fitzpatrick. It isn’t just an All-Pro, Pro Bowl safety, but a vital piece to the defensive puzzle. The Steelers organization, mainly Art Rooney II, have spoken openly about the value of Fitzpatrick and the team’s desire to get him a new contract before the start of the 2022 regular season.
This should sound familiar, right? Just last season the Steelers were in a near identical situation with T.J. Watt. Watt, entering his 5th year option, wanted the security of a long-term deal, and did what he had to force the team’s hand.
But he did it his way.
He never missed a day, worked out in individual drills, but avoided team drills to minimize the chances of injury. His tactics equated in a monster contract prior to the team’s Week 1 game vs. the Buffalo Bills last season.
Fitzpatrick seems to be following the same path which was blazed by Watt a year ago. To date, Fitzpatrick hasn’t missed a workout, but has stayed on the sidelines for any team drills.
“We will play it by ear,” head coach Mike Tomlin announced on Tuesday after minicamp when asked about Fitzpatrick’s participation level.
Last season Tomlin was understanding of Watt’s plight, and it shouldn’t shock anyone he is doing the same thing in 2022. Fitzpatrick’s teammates are also behind the safety both doing what’s best for him, both on and off the field.
“Even though he’s not practicing doesn’t mean that he’s not locked in,” fellow safetey Terrell Edmunds said. “He’s just being a vocal guy. Minkah, he’s always been that leader. He’s always been that guy that’s out there trying to help us out the best way he can. He’s still out there trying to give out pointers. He’s watching every single play. He’s giving his feedback of what he sees and he’s trying to help us out the best way he can.”
Fellow defensive back Cam Sutton spoke about Fitzpatrick’s involvement, or lack thereof, throughout the three-day minicamp, and he wasn’t concerned about any lack of participation.
“It’s not something that we talk about,” Sutton said. “Obviously, they have him doing things or don’t, or whatever the circumstances may be. But he’s always ready to go. That’s nothing we have to worry about. That’s obviously the business side of things and just kinda how things go at times.
“Again, another brother who is ready to come in each and every day, lead us. His presence is felt, not just on the field. He’s out there each and every day communicating, talking. He’s in meetings, always around ball. He’s taking care of himself, his body. He’s showing the younger guys what to look forward to, and really how to move and how to do things the right way.
“Another guy who’s really doing all the things the right way, and expressing that to guys around him.”
Fitzpatrick fits the same mold as Watt. They both are not the most vocal leaders, preferring to lead by example, but they also know how to go about their business with an organization like the Steelers. The Steelers have always appreciated players who work their way through contract negotiations, and typically honor those players with new contracts. At this point the question isn’t if Fitzpatrick gets a new deal, but when he gets a new deal.
Reports are already circulating how negotiations with Fitzpatrick and his representation are going well. This per Josh Rowntree of 93.7 The Fan:
Based on a couple of conversations that I had today, #Steelers fans should be encouraged about the progress of Minkah Fitzpatrick's contract situation.— Josh Rowntree (@JRown32) June 9, 2022
Might not be imminent, but overwhelming sense is that it's in a very, very good spot. @937theFan
Not only is this good news, but it hopefully results in a situation which doesn’t require the player kicking his agent(s) out of the room to get a deal done, like Watt reportedly had to do a year ago when he signed his contract.
For some, the 2021 season has tarnished Fitzpatrick’s value to the Steelers’ defense. Many don’t want their All-Pro safety leading the team in tackles, but who does? I’m sure if you asked Tomlin, Teryl Austin or even Brian Flores if they’d rather have Fitzpatrick roaming the secondary baiting quarterbacks into mistakes, they would say yes in a heartbeat. Last season Fitzpatrick did what he had to do, and that was help stop the run.
With a trio of capable safeties on the team, and hopefully a fixed run defense, the hope is Fitzpatrick gets his new contract and dazzles the Heinz Field crowd with game-breaking plays at every turn.
In the meantime, the new task at hand for newly minted General Manager (GM) Omar Khan is to get his star safety under contract. Until then, expect more of the same from Fitzpatrick as it pertains to his day-to-day participation in training camp when players report to Saint Vincent College on July 26th.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for training camp in just over a month.