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Minkah has plenty to smile about

Minkah Fitzpatrick loves the history of the Steelers, the tradition, the commitment to winning.

He loves his teammates, his coaches and everything about the organization.

And more than anything, he loves that he will be a part of all of that for the next five years.

Fitzpatrick signed a new five-year contract on Wednesday, and a day later was thankful for those who helped him get where he is during a press conference at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.

"First, I just want to start by obviously thanking the Rooney family," said Fitzpatrick, a smile glued to his face. "Mr. (Art) Rooney, my family, Omar (Khan), Kevin (Colbert), Coach (Mike) Tomlin and then anybody…I can sit here all day and thank people. This has not been an individual effort by any means. I've had people house me when I didn't have a home. I've had people feed me when I didn't have food. I've had people taking me to practice, to work when I didn't have a ride. I just want to thank everybody that has done anything for me. I could sit here all day and list those names and be appreciative and thankful. Last, but not least, I'm a man of faith so I've got to thank the man upstairs because honestly, still surreal and none of this makes sense for real and I know without him I would not be where I am today. I thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

Pittsburgh Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (39) speaks at a press conference regarding his new contract extension at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex

From the moment he arrived in Pittsburgh via a trade in Week 2 of the 2019 season, after starting his career with the Miami Dolphins, he saw what the Steelers were all about.

"I think the thing that I appreciate most about this organization is commitment to winning," said Fitzpatrick, who admitted the emotions haven't hit him yet. "I think everything that we do, or even me coming here was a commitment to winning. It could have been a season where we lost our starting quarterback (Ben Roethlisberger). A legendary Hall of Fame quarterback. It could have been a season where they just tanked and decided to call it quits. But they went out and acquired me, acquired some other guys and said we're gonna do what we got to do to win games. It we got to win on defense, we got to win on defense.

"Obviously, it wasn't a perfect season, but it was a season that was dedicated towards winning even though it wasn't prime conditions, prime circumstances for winning. I feel like that kind of set the tone for these last few seasons. They showed me that this program is a winning program. They're going to do whatever it takes to win. And they're going to hold you to that standard on a day-to-day basis. That's what Coach T, and the coaching staff, and Mr. Rooney do. If you're not moving and focused on winning and being the best and competing, then they're not going to want you here."

There is no doubt Fitzpatrick is committed to winning, being the best, and upholding the standard, and that is exactly why the Steelers were committed to keeping him in the black and gold.

"It's a blessing. It's something you work for a long time," said Fitzpatrick. "I remember when I was 15 and I was telling my father when we were working together, I'm going to be at this position that I am now today. So being here is surreal. It's awesome. I'm happy that we got it done and the timing that we got it done. Very fortunate to be able to be a Pittsburgh Steeler for the long run."

Fitzpatrick said he didn't know what the timetable was going to be to get the contract done, but his hope all along was to have it in place before training camp.

"It was important. I wanted to be out there with my teammates, practicing and competing," said Fitzpatrick. "And thankfully we got it done in the timing that we did.

"That is just what Omar and Mr. Rooney really wanted to do. They reached out a few weeks ago and said they're ready to start the negotiation process and we sent an offer, they sent an offer first, we went back and forth a little while. I guess this is when they wanted to get it done."

While the team didn't release details of the contract, it has been reported that Fitzpatrick is now the highest paid safety in the NFL, something that means something to him, but said it doesn't add pressure.

"I think I'm the best at what I do," said Fitzpatrick. "You would like to be paid in that way and represented in that way. Somebody, it could be in a week from now, or it could be a year from now, somebody's obviously gonna pass it up. You always want to raise the bar for the guys behind you. You want to raise the bar for the people in your own locker room. Mr. Rooney and Omar, they see the work that I put in and my play on field reflects that. They're willing to make me that and obviously I'm appreciative.

"I think because I've done it there's no pressure. That's the standard that I hold myself to day-in and day-out. The standard that my teammates hold me to day-in and day-out. But no, I don't think there's any pressure. I mean obviously I've got to hold myself to that standard. But just the opportunity to prove that I am what I say I am."

More from Minkah:

On senior defensive assistant/linebackers coach Brian Flores, who was his coach when he played for the Dolphins:
"It's been good. Coach Flo, he's a great coach. He's a smart guy. He's a guy that lives to a high standard. He's a piece that I think we really needed. He's a real detail-oriented guy, detail-oriented coach. He's not a guy that's gonna let things get brushed aside. He's gonna address them. He's direct. He might not tell you exactly how you want to hear it, but he's gonna tell you and I think that's important to have in the locker room. He's gonna get on you. He's a great coach. I'm excited to have him. He's focused and locked in on winning and that's what his goal is. And I'm happy to have him here."

On how he's evolved since being traded to the Steelers:
"I think I evolved a lot. My first game as a Steeler in San Francisco was my first time really playing full-time free safety. My first few games in Miami I was kind of moving around a little bit and that was really the only time I played free safety before in the league. I played a few games in college. But I think from that time to now, I've learned the type of player that I am. I learned my strengths. I learned my weaknesses. I know what I need to work on. I know what I'm good at. And I feel like just being able to form my identity has really helped me evolve into the player that I am today. I'm still learning, still adapting, still growing, still trying to find new ways to get better and improve. But I think I'm a totally different player than I was a few years ago when I first got here."

On if focusing on free safety only has aided him:
"I think it definitely helped me to form an identity because it is hard when you first get to a system and they ask you to move around. But part of that adapting is also learning other positions because once you get locked in, people know where you are. And we've kind of seen that happen the last year and a half. People know that and they get to choose not to throw there or look the other way when you get locked into one spot. We're learning how to adapt to learn different positions and move around the field now that I'm comfortable and I know the type of player I am."

On if having high-paid players on defense motivates them to raise the bar:
"I don't necessarily think the money motivates us, but just how we conduct ourselves. Last year was not to our standard at all. And I know myself, T.J. (Watt), Cam (Heyward), all of us were not happy or pleased with the way the season ended. Especially how in that playoff game, it was an embarrassment honestly, was not our typical selves. That's what motivates us. The money is a blessing, and the money creates opportunity for everybody around us and our families. With the money they're saying we trust you to be the best and prepare to be the best and compete against the best and play A plus plus on a consistent basis. I'm trying to hold myself to rather than just saying oh, I got paid so now I got to play well. These guys trust me with this amount of money and this amount of responsibility. Now it's my duty to go out there and play at a high level and show them that I deserve this compensation."

On what the team did with building the defense this offseason:
"I'm really excited. I'm excited about getting Ahkello (Witherspoon) back. I'm excited about Levi (Wallace). I'm excited about Myles (Jack). We drafted well in the front. We have a young, but experienced defense. We got older guys that are great mentors, are great at coaching and getting the new guys ready to play because we're going to need some new guys, new faces to step up. I'm excited about this upcoming season."

The Steelers signed safety Minkah Fitzpatrick to a new five-year contract