Steelers Minkah Fitzpatrick can continue Hall of Fame pace after new deal

Minkah Fitzpatrick #39 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Minkah Fitzpatrick #39 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Steelers recently extended the contract of Minkah Fitzpatrick. Here’s what the young safety must do to continue his Hall of Fame pace.

There is not a more prestigious accomplishment for an NFL player than to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Oftentimes, teams can go decades without being able to claim any of their own who are worthy of this honor.

The Steelers have been pretty fortunate in this regard. Pittsburgh has a rich history of Hall of Fame talent that really kicked off with an outrageously talented group of players in the 70s. In more recent years, Troy Polamalu and Alan Faneca have been inducted into the Hall of fame, and Ben Roethlisberger should be there soon following his retirement.

On their current roster, the Steelers have a few players who stand a good shot at making the Hall of Fame. At the rate he’s going, reigning Defensive Player of the Year, T.J. Watt, should be a shoo-in for a bust in Canton. Cameron Heyward could also see himself in the Hall of Fame with a few more good seasons.

Minkah Fitzpatrick isn’t too far behind. By age 24, the Steelers safety becomes one of the youngest defenders ever to earn two First-Team All-Pro honors. Now 25 and with a massive new contract that makes him the richest safety in the history of the NFL, what must he do to continue on this Hall of Fame pace.

Steelers safety needs to maintain All-Pro status

I’ve done a lot of research on what it takes for a player to ultimately make the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It’s not easy, and the bar seems to be raising each year.

Individual accolades seem to matter a lot when it comes to All-Pro voting. The floor benchmark in today’s NFL seems to be four First-Team All-Pro honors. Some positions (like offensive guard and kicker) seem to require more.

Fortunately, Minkah already has two First-Team All-Pros in the first four years of his NFL career. However, stalling out now could be devastating to his chances.

There are 64 starting safeties in the NFL. Like Minkah, many of them never leave the field. Only two players per year can earn First-Team All-Pro honors. While Pro Bowl appearances certainly don’t hurt, they don’t hold as much value to the Selection Committee as the All-Pro awards from The Associated Press.

Using four All-Pros as the threshold, Minkah Fitzpatrick still needs at least two more First-Team All-Pro honors to even be considered for the Hall of Fame. Even with them, he’s not guaranteed to make it.

While Steelers legend Troy Polamalu only had four First-Team All-Pro selections, he was often injured from 2006 to 2014, and these injuries no doubt played a factor. One of the things he did to make up for having just four First-Team All-Pros, however, was earning Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2010. Polamalu also had two Super Bowls to go with his impressive list of accomplishments.

Fitzpatrick doesn’t need to be a Polamalu-level player to make the Hall of Fame, but he does need to stay on top of his position for several more years. This means he needs to be a routine playmaker — earning interceptions, defensive touchdowns, and the works.

The good news is that he’s so far ahead of the game. At just 25 years old, Fitzpatrick already has two First-Team All-Pro honors and he could have as many as ten years left in the tank. Obviously, once he gets into his 30s, earning these accolades is going to be more difficult, so he needs to take advantage while he’s young.

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We don’t know how the rest of his career is going to look, but at this rate, it’s very reasonable to believe that Minkah Fitzpatrick could make it to the Hall of Fame. Let’s hope he’s dialed in after his new contract extension.