Steelers FS Minkah Fitzpatrick is coming off an All-Pro campaign in 2019. Here’s why he was disrespected in Pro Football Focus’s recent player rankings.
Whether you are a fan of the Steelers or not, there’s no denying the phenomenal season Minkah Fitzpatrick had in 2019. After beginning the season with the Miami Dolphins, the 22-year old safety was traded to Pittsburgh where he immediately made the start as free safety in Week 3 against the 49ers.
In his first action with the Steelers, Fitzpatrick recorded an interception, a forced fumble, and a pass deflection. But he didn’t slow down from there. Minkah went on to earn first-team All-Pro honors after recording 5 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, 9 pass defenses, and a defensive touchdown in his second season in the league.
But despite all of this, Pro Football Focus apparently wasn’t that high on his breakout season. PFF recently released its list of “Top 25 players under the age of 25.” While Fitzpatrick made the cut, he was just the 4th ranked safety and 17th ranked player on this list. Here is what PFF’s Ben Linsey had to say about Minkah:
"The Steelers didn’t have a first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, but that’s because they spent it on a 23-year-old safety whose 84.4 overall grade ranked sixth at the position after landing in Pittsburgh prior to Week 3. You don’t want to make too many conclusions based on two-week sample sizes, but it’s hard not to see the kind of effect Fitzpatrick had on the Pittsburgh defense from his free safety position after joining the team. Over the first two weeks of the season, the Steelers allowed 155 passing yards on throws 20 or more yards downfield (t-11th most). That number was just 376 over the remaining 14 games (second lowest)."
There’s no doubt that Fitzpatrick deserved to make this list, but where he was slated left me scratching my head. Three safeties were listed ahead of him: Derwin James (ranked 4th), Jamal Adams (5th), and Marcus Williams (15th).
I can understand the debate with some of these names, but I think it’s a travesty to have Minkah this low on this list. All Fitzpatrick did in 2019 was made plays, and the Steelers defense wouldn’t have been the same without him.
After an awful defensive start to the 2020 season, Pittsburgh’s defense was immediately boosted with the addition of Fitzpatrick. He not only earned All-Pro honors after the season, but he was a runner up for the Defensive Player of the Year award.
With the Steelers, Minkah allowed just a 46.3 passer rating and 52.0 percent of passes to be completed in his area (13/25), according to Pro Football Reference’s advanced statistics. He also allowed just 1 touchdown in 14 games in addition to posting 8 turnover-worthy plays (interceptions/forced fumbles/fumble recoveries) and two defensive touchdowns.
I understand that Jamal Adams and Derwin James are great football players, and you can argue that either of them is the best safety in the league. However, with the outstanding season he had in 2019, Fitzpatrick should be in the discussion among the best young players in the league.