With the 11th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins selected Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick. A jack-of-all-trades, Fitzpatrick could help Miami at free safety, strong safety, boundary cornerback, nickel cornerback, and even at linebacker. He was the perfect Swiss Army Knife for a defense that value versatility and being able to move players around without changing personnel on the field.
Everything about Fitzpatrick was exactly what Miami, even with a new coaching staff entering 2019, wanted.
Tonight, when he takes the field on Monday Night Football, Fitzpatrick will primarily be playing free safety, but he will likely move around a few times throughout the game. The only issue is, he will be doing it wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers uniform after Miami traded him for a first-round pick earlier this year.
Fitzpatrick felt the Dolphins were not using him to his strength, asking him to play in the box more, taking on a linebacker/strong safety role, while he would have preferred free safety or nickel cornerback. Even as Miami works through a rebuilding season, Fitzpatrick was in the plans for the future of the club, but he worked his way out of South Florida, and Miami added a first-round pick in his place.
How is Fitzpatrick fitting in with the Steelers? Since all this week I have been speaking with Behind the Steel Curtain editor Jeff Hartman, I asked him about the former Dolphins safety:
Minkah Fitzpatrick has had about as smooth of a transition to the Steelers’ defense as could be imagined. He played in Week 3 vs. the 49ers after just three practices and recorded an interception and forced a fumble. While the big plays haven’t been as predominant since then, he has helped solidify the back end of the defense in a big way. There are less communication issues, and the defensive backs are flying to the ball knowing their assignments. This isn’t solely due to Fitzpatrick, but a lot can be accredited to his high football IQ and ability to adapt to the system quickly. Unlike what they were having him do in Miami, Fitzpatrick is a pure Free Safety for the Steelers right now. This is what he wanted, and the Steelers have only moved him out of that position a handful of times in the four games he has played in so far this season. Regarding whether Fitzpatrick is worth a first round pick, the Steelers’ fan base responds to that with a resounding “YES!”
The Dolphins, and the fan base, are enjoying the Steelers’ 2-4 start to this season because, as the team struggles, that first-round pick gets better and better. Can Miami beat Fitzpatrick and the Steelers tonight to improve that selection a little more? Or, will the second-year safety dominate his former club?