PITTSBURGH — Minkah Fitzpatrick and the Steelers agreed to an extension that would make him the highest-paid safety in football. While that was plenty of incentive to sign a big deal with the Steelers, there are plenty of other factors that come into play when a player goes to sign a long-term deal.
For Fitzpatrick, winning means a lot. It is the only thing he has known in his life when playing football. If his team is not winning, it usually means something is a little bit off. So, when the Steelers traded a first-round pick to acquire Fitzpatrick in 2019 even after losing Ben Roethlisberger, it made it clear that the Steelers were serious about winning.
That is one of the key reasons that Fitzpatrick wanted to come back and stay within the Steelers organization. The winning mentality drew him into the organization from the time he arrived to now. While they easily could have packed it up in 2019, they instead chose to fight and compete. That spoke volumes to the Steelers locker room, and especially, to Fitzpatrick.
“I think the thing that I appreciate most about this organization is the commitment to winning,” Fitzpatrick said. “I think everything we do or even me coming here, was a commitment to winning. It could have been a season where we lost our starting quarterback, our legendary Hall of Fame quarterback, it could have been a season where they just tanked and called it quits. But they went out and acquired me and a few other guys.”
The mindset of winning at all costs is something the Steelers live by at all times. In what many may consider a rebuilding year, the Steelers are legitimately trying to go out and make the playoffs at all costs. There is no season in which Art Rooney II, Mike Tomlin, and the organization will not try to win a Super Bowl. That makes the Steelers unique. They do not want to experience the pitfalls of the NFL.
So, for players like Fitzpatrick, that instills pressure, but also confidence in them from the team. And as Fitzpatrick noted, the Steelers were willing to bet on him to improve their defense for the sake of winning. If the Steelers can not do it on offense, they will instead build up the defense as much. They take any avenue that is possible to win every year. In the NFL, that is an outlier mentality.
“They said ‘We gotta do what we gotta do to win games. If they have to win on defense, then we’ll win on defense.'” Fitzpatrick said. “Obviously, it wasn’t a perfect season, but it was a season that was dedicated to winning even though it wasn’t prime circumstances for winning. We went out there and that set the tone for these last few seasons. It showed me that this program is a winning program. They’re going to do whatever it takes to win. They’re going to hold you to the standard on a day-to-day basis. That’s what Coach T, the coaching staff, and Mr. Rooney do. If you’re not focused on moving, winning, and being your best and competitive, then they’re not going to want you there. I think that’s just a reflection on the background where I come from. It works hand in hand.”
The Steelers try to hold themselves to a standard, and it seemingly has rubbed off on players like Fitzpatrick. Now, it will be on Fitzpatrick to help ingratiate others into the standard. Given how bought in he seems and how he going to be the leader of the secondary, it seems that Fitzpatrick is all the way bought in.