Steelers fans were worried about Minkah Fitzpatrick early in the season, but here’s why he’s holding up his end of the bargain.
Minkah Fitzpatrick was an instant star after being traded from the Miami Dolphins to the Pittsburgh Steelers early in the 2019 season. In his first seven games sporting the black and gold, Fitzpatrick earned 5 interceptions, 8 pass defenses, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and 2 defensive touchdowns. However, the splash plays did not continue after in the second half of the sesaon.
In fact, Minkah went on an 11-game drought from 2019 into 2020 in which he did not record a single interception. Moreso, he only had just one pass defense over this span. While much of this had to do with quarterbacks avoiding him, he was seemingly non-existent on the football field and Steelers fans started to worry.
Steelers fans don’t need to worry about Minkah
Fortunately, we don’t need to worry any longer. Though we knew the young, talented safety could bounce back eventually and start making his presence felt, he did so starting in Week 6 against the Cleveland Browns. In this game, Minkah recorded an interception that he returned for a 33-yard touchdown and registered a pass defense as well. Since Week 6, there has been no shortage of splash plays for Fitzpatrick. Over the past five games, he has registered 2 interceptions, 4 pass defenses, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery, via Pro Football Reference. This is a stark difference from his first four games this year where he didn’t record as much as a single pass defense.
Additionally, Minkah has boosted his overall grade from the mid-50s for the first portion of the season to a very respectable 73.8 (14th among all NFL safeties), according to Pro Football Focus. While it’s true that we would like the 2019 first-team All-Pro grade out even better, he has made drastic improvements over the past five weeks.
When Fitzpatrick gets cooking, look out NFL! The Steelers already have one of the best defensive fronts in the NFL, and T.J. Watt has a legitimate shot at bringing home the Defensive Player of the Year award after the 2020 season. In addition, Cameron Heward and Stephon Tuitt have recently had their names added to the list of DPOY candidates this year (albeit with longshot odds).
The reality of the safety position is that players are going to have droughts – even blue-chip players like Minkah Fitzpatrick. There are going to be stretches where they just don’t seem to make a big impact on the football team. However, we are seeing for the second straight year now that if quarterbacks have the guts to keep throwing his direction, eventually he will make a play on the ball.