July 19, 2024

Steelers DC to focus on Minkah Fitzpatrick’s resurgence in 2024

As the Steelers dealt with injuries in the linebacking corps and the secondary last season, Minkah Fitzpatrick was forced to handle a number of different responsibilities. The All-Pro safety is in line to handle a more familiar workload in 2024, however.

Fitzpatrick – known to be at his best when used as a free safety based on his ball-hawking skills – saw a decrease in his usage rate with respect to centerfield-type deployment last season. Instead, his varied workload included an uptick in time spent in the box as well as at slot corner. That played a key role in the four-time Pro Bowler being held without an interception for the first time in his career last year.

“The biggest thing is as coaches, 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,” Steelers defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said about Fitzpatrick’s usage (via ESPN’s Brooke Pryor). “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.”

Pittsburgh has Damontae Kazee set to return from the suspension which ended his regular season, and the team added a veteran safety in the form of DeShon Elliott in free agency. The Steelers’ linebacking corps (which includes holdovers Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts) was also strengthened this offseason with the signing of Patrick Queen and the selection of Payton Wilson in the draft. Better health and increased depth at both positions in 2024 should allow Fitzpatrick to return to an all-but-exclusive role as a free safety.

The 27-year-old has proven to be a productive acquisition for the Steelers, amassing 17 interceptions and 41 pass deflections since being traded by the Dolphins. Fitzpatrick is under contract through 2026 on his $18.25M-per-year deal, and expectations will be high for him in 2024 especially if he manages to return to his preferred alignment.

Pittsburgh ranked 11th in the league in interceptions last year despite Fitzpatrick being kept off the board in that regard, but the team finished just 17th in passing yards allowed. Improvement in both areas could take place with him returning to his most effective spot.