Steelers Minkah Fitzpatrick disrespected on top NFL safeties list

Pittsburgh Steelers free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (39). Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (39). Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports /

Steelers Minkah Fitzpatrick is a polarizing defensive player, but here’s why he has been disrespected in a recent list of top NFL safeties.

Though many questioned the move at the time, there shouldn’t be Steelers fans out there who regret trading for Minkah Fitzpatrick less than two years later. Though the young safety has only played 30 games in a Steelers uniform, his value to the team was evident from the start.

Fitzpatrick didn’t have the greatest rookie season as a member of the Miami Dolphins. Asked to play in the slot and as an in-the-box safety, Minkah voiced that he was being used outside of his comfort zone and that he had more to offer. Just two games into his second season with the Dolphins, Fitzpatrick was credited for giving up 3 touchdown passes, resulting in a perfect 158.3 passer rating. However, things changed drastically after joining the Steelers in September of 2019.

Since then, Fitzpatrick has earned 9 interceptions and has 14 takeaway-worthy plays (a combination of interceptions, forced fumbles, and fumble recoveries). In addition, Fitzpatrick has chipped in 3 defensive touchdowns during that span.

When it came time for Pro Football Focus to rank their 32 best safeties entering the 2021 NFL season, the Steelers star was disrespected. PFF’s Sam Monson had Minkah Fitzpatrick ranked as the 5th-best safety.

Steelers safety ranked too low on PFF’s list

Normally, I wouldn’t give a second thought to some of these rankings. However, I find it annoying that a player who has performed so well over the past two years could be ranked as low as fifth in the league at his position.

The four players above Minkah on the list are Justin Simmons, Harrison Smith, John Johnson III, and Marcus Williams. Each of these safeties is a great player in their own right, but regardless of what metric you would like to use, Fitzpatrick trumps all the rest at his position.

In terms of statistical production, this really isn’t a close race. Despite being targeted just 51 times over the past two seasons, according to Pro Football Reference, Fitzpatrick still had more takeaway-worthy plays than anyone on this list since 2019. Players like Simmons, Johnson, and Williams all saw significantly more targets over the past two seasons and allowed almost double the number of yards while garnering fewer takeaways.

Even if we want to take out raw statistics, Fitzpatrick still had the fewest amount of completions allowed, the lowest completion percentage when thrown at, and the lowest passer rating allowed in coverage. He also had by far the highest Pro Football Reference approximate value of any NFL safety over the past two seasons combined.

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I know Minkah Fitzpatrick hasn’t been a household name for very long, but the two-time first-team All-Pro safety has proven to be terrific over the past two seasons. Being ranked 5th at your respective position is typically a compliment, but I think you can make the case for Fitzpatrick as the best safety in the league.