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Steelers Set to Change Minkah Fitzpatrick’s Role in 2024

The Pittsburgh Steelers are set to help Minkah Fitzpatrick get back to playing ‘Minkah-Ball’ in 2024 by changing his role.



Minkah Fitzpatrick
Pittsburgh Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick at OTAs on June 4, 2024. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — A season ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers pushed Minkah Fitzpatrick to play more in the box and slot, prompting him to work as a blitzer and out of the natural role as a deep safety that he had manned since his arrival in Pittsburgh in 2019. That led to Fitzpatrick not making as many splash plays, and more than that, offenses no longer had to worry about where Fitzpatrick would lurk.

Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin reflected that Fitzpatrick got taken out of the play more often than not and even got injured multiple times due to the physicality of playing down in the box. On the tape, he believes that he failed Fitzpatrick and the defense in that regard last season.

“Our job is to try to get all of our guys in the best position as possible so they can play as well as they can and play up to their abilities. And so last year, I probably failed in that regard. We tried to have him do too much stuff, and I think I’m going to get back to really what makes him special,” Austin said.

Last week, Minkah Fitzpatrick talked about returning to ‘Minkah-Ball,’ where he can play deep and roam on the quarterback’s eyes to make plays. DeShon Elliott should help ease the burden on Fitzpatrick to execute that responsibility. Elliott can blitz from the slot and play in the box.

Pittsburgh Steelers FS Minkah Fitzpatrick

Pittsburgh Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick against the Buffalo bills, Jan. 17, 2024 – Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

“Just let me play ball,” Fitzpatrick said. “That’s it. Minkah ball. As many great players as you could get in the field is going to help Minkah play Minkah ball.”

Take it from Austin, who, when asked where Fitzpatrick will slot in this upcoming season, immediately said that Fitzpatrick would roam back this year, mainly because it took him out of plays. However, the Steelers did not have the personnel to take up the other roles, so Fitzpatrick had more added to his plate, diluting his effectiveness across the football field.

In 2024, though, Austin vows not to let that happen and get Fitzpatrick back to his All-Pro level of impact. How? He does what he did before 2023, making every quarterback guess where he was before the snap.

“To get him back to playing Minkah-Ball, as he would say, Minkah is at his best when he is playing back a bit deeper, seeing things, and able to go back and react because he sees the game really fast,” Austin said. “And so, my job is to keep him back there as much as possible, and to keep him out of situations where he’s blitzing and doing that stuff. It’s not that he can’t, but he’s better doing the other things. That’s where the additions come in. You have other guys that are ready to handle some of those things that you know, he picked up last year. So, we’ll have other guys do those things and get back to where he is exceptional.”

So, the team will have a new vision for using Minkah Fitzpatrick. With guys like Elliott and even Patrick Queen coming into the mix, Fitzpatrick should be able to expand his usage across the back end of the secondary. If he can do that, the Steelers might have a hidden upgrade in the secondary beyond just the guys they have added.