Following the leader

IN PRAISE OF MINKAH: The Steelers opened Mandatory Veteran Minicamp without a plan for the level of free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick's participation either this week or in training camp.

"We will play it by ear," head coach Mike Tomlin announced on Tuesday.

Strong safety Terrell Edmunds lauded the involvement of Fitzpatrick, such as it was, after the third of the three sessions this week wrapped up today.

"Even though he's not practicing doesn't mean that he's not locked in," Edmunds maintained. "He's just being a vocal guy. Minkah, he's always been that leader. He's always been that guy that's out there trying to help us out the best way he can. He's still out there trying to give out pointers. He's watching every single play. He's giving his feedback of what he sees and he's trying to help us out the best way he can."

One of those ways is to lead by example.

"He's a smart guy," Edmunds continued. "He's very detailed. He's just a special player like that.

"He's down-to-earth, a guy that you can talk to. He's a guy that just wants to win. You can just see the hunger in his eye, that he wants to win each and every game. He doesn't care who makes the play, he just wants the play to be made.

"That's big on our defense in totality, because even if you think about guys like (outside linebacker) T.J. (Watt) or Cam (Heyward), they don't care who makes the play that week. They just want to go out there and win but they're like the superstars on our team."

Fitzpatrick is entering the final year of the rookie contract he signed with the Miami Dolphins in 2018.

The Steelers exercised the fifth-year option on Fitzpatrick's deal for this season.

Watt, in a similar situation a year ago, participated in position drills but not 11-on-11 work in training camp while the details the contract extension he eventually signed with the Steelers were being finalized.

Fitzpatrick worked position drills this week.

"It's not something that we talk about," cornerback Cam Sutton said. "Obviously, they have him doing things or don't, or whatever the circumstances may be. But he's always ready to go. That's nothing we have to worry about. That's obviously the business side of things and just kinda how things go at times.

"Again, another brother who is ready to come in each and every day, lead us. His presence is felt, not just on the field. He's out there each and every day communicating, talking. He's in meetings, always around ball. He's taking care of himself, his body. He's showing the younger guys what to look forward to, and really how to move and how to do things the right way.

"Another guy who's really doing all the things the right way, and expressing that to guys around him."

SUBSTANCE OVER STYLE: The Steelers broke out their Guardian Caps this week, the soft-shell pads that are worn over the helmet.

Certain position players will be required to wear the caps between the start of training camp and the second preseason game, according to a resolution the NFL adopted in March, in an effort to limit concussions.

"I wore them in college," tight end Pat Freiermuth said. "I like them just because of my past with concussions. I kinda like the extra protection."

Players perceived the caps as less than stylish.

"We look dumb," Freiermuth added. "We definitely look dumb but it's good protection."

Guard Kevin Dotson said the movie "Spaceballs" was one of the references the Guardian Caps inspired in the locker room.

"We definitely appreciate it," Dotson said. "This really helps a lot.

"You gotta do what you gotta do."