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Can Minkah Fitzpatrick Win Defensive Player of the Year?

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Can Steelers All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick win NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2020?

It’s a loaded question. Of course, in theory, any defensive player in the league is eligible for the award. And Fitzpatrick is coming off an exemplary 2019 season.

The Alabama product had five interceptions, a forced fumble, two defensive touchdowns and 57 tackles in 14 games with the Steelers after coming over from the Dolphins for a 1st round pick.

Despite the protestations of CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco, Minkah Fitzpatrick is one of the best players in the league and should be one of the stars of a Steelers defense that should challenge for the top spot in the NFL this season.

In an interview with 93.7 The Fan this morning, NBC Sports’ Peter King labeled Fitzpatrick as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. King makes the case that with a full year to learn the Steelers system under belt, Fitzpatrick will be even better than he was in 2019, saying “With a year knowing this system and especially a system that features the safety so much, he’s not going to be good, I think he’ll be great this year.”

Fitzpatrick certainly has the talent, and if he can repeat his numbers from 2019, the stats to win NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He’s currently listed as one of the favorites by William Hill, sitting at 40/1 odds, behind teammate T.J. Watt and a handful of others. But one thing beyond his control may have the final say, and that’s history. Only five safeties have ever won the award since it was first handed out in 1971.

You may recognize one of the winners, Troy Polamalu, who won the award in 2010 had seven interceptions, 11 passes defensed, a touchdown, one forced fumble and 63 tackles in 14 games while leading the number one ranked Steelers defense back to the Super Bowl. He’s the most recent safety to take home the award. Before him were Bob Sanders in 2007, Ed Reed in 2004, Kenny Easley in 1984 and Dick Anderson in 1973 (who was sandwiched between two Joe Greene DPOY awards). Sanders put up linebacker-esque numbers with 97 tackles, 3.5 sacks, two picks and six passes defensed, leading a top ranked scoring and third overall Colts defense in 2007. Before Sanders, Ed Reed was the first safety winner in 30 years, taking home the award in 2004 after leading the league in picks with nine and adding three forced fumbles, two sacks, 17 passes defensed and 78 tackles. 1984 winner Kenny Easley played in an era before tackles or passes defensed were official stats, but managed to lead the league in interceptions and defensive touchdowns with 10 and two, respectively.

In the history of the award, it has gone to linebackers 16 times, a defensive end 13 times, nine times to defensive tackles, six to cornerbacks and only five times has it been awarded to safeties.

In other words, you need to have a monster season as a safety to win the award. Fitzpatrick certainly proved he can put up gaudy numbers, but he’ll have to outshine fellow defensive stalwarts and teammates Cam Heyward and T.J. Watt, as well as beat out stars like Aaron Donald and last year’s winner Stephon Gilmore to take home the win.

Can Fitzpatrick win the award? Absolutely. Will he? History isn’t on his side. But if he can put up the same kind of numbers across a full season for the Steelers in 2020, the voters will have to be on notice. Expect him to make a strong case.

Steelers

Steelers QB Josh Dobbs Working with NASA for 2nd Straight Year

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Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Josh Dobbs is joining the NASA Kennedy Space Flight Center for the second straight offseason.

The collaboration is a part of the NFLPA’s virtual Externship program, which provides players with professional development experiences to prepare them for their careers after football.

Dobbs is part of an exclusive group of just 52 players participating in the program. His placement with NASA will last through the end of March.

“We believe that this year’s virtual Externship experience will provide our player members with a unique opportunity to broaden their knowledge, skillset and network in new, innovative ways that will serve them well during life after football,” NFLPA Player Manager Connor Ford said.

Dobbs’ mental acumen is well-documented, as the quarterback left the University of Tennessee with a degree in aerospace engineering in 2017.

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Steelers RB Trey Edmunds Shares Love of Reading with Local Students

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Pittsburgh Steelers running back Trey Edmunds has been a lifelong lover of reading, a passion he shared with local students on Tuesday’s celebration of Read Across America Day.

Edmunds joined students at Pittsburgh Faison for a virtual assembly and read New York Times best seller, What Do You Do With An Idea? by Kobi Yamada.

“I am blessed and humbled to be amongst you guys today and to represent another part of the community and be able to read to you,” Edmunds told Steelers.com. “I am so happy to be here today. What I do want to say is I was in some of the same positions as you guys. I grew up listening to people come back and read to me. Some of those same people I have been in contact with many years later. Some of those same things they have read to me, I have had the privilege of reading to some of the people I mentor, some of the young people in my life, whether it’s cousins, nephews. I am extremely happy today.”

Edmunds also surprised the student with a copy of his own book My Brother’s Keeper – What This Means to Me…, written alongside with his brothers Terrell and Tremaine. Terrell is a safety for Pittsburgh, while Tremaine is a standout linebacker for the Buffalo Bills.

Edmunds’ love of reading came from his mother Felicia, who as an educator, always championed the important of the skill.

“My mother is an elementary school teacher, so she had me doing all of that stuff when I was in high school, college, as a matter of fact I have to go to her school to read for the month of March,” he told Steelers.com. “It keeps me on my toes, attentive. I am a big reader myself, so when I get the opportunity to read to kids, I like that type of interaction.”

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Should Steelers Sign Zach Banner to be Starter in 2021?

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Zach Banner has become a prominent member of the Steelers, but that’s not because he’s had success on the field over the past year. Banner’s success has come off the field by connecting with fans on social media and doing his part to help those in need than he has on a football field. But by no means is that Banner’s fault.

He suffered a season ending torn ACL in Week 1 of the 2020 season. This injury was especially devastating for the USC product because it occurred on the heels of Banner winning the starting right tackle position following a tough training camp battle with Chukwuma Okorafor.

Due to Banner’s injury, it was Okorafor who ended up starting 16 games, including the postseason. While Banner kept in good spirits and became his team’s loudest cheerleader on Twitter during games, it was clear he wanted to be on the field and contributing.

Earning a starting spot as a member of the Steelers offensive line was a major career achievement for Banner, but it was one he didn’t get to enjoy. With Banner expected to be ready for a return next season, should the Steelers sign the 27-year-old with the anticipation that he could be a key piece to bolster the offensive line that was missing during the 2020 season?

Do you believe in Zach Banner? Comment below with why or why not.

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