Coach Mike Tomlin weighed in on newly acquired defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick during his weekly press conference.
A guy they studied: Familiarity is a big thing in the NFL and that was a huge factor in the Steelers pulling the trigger on the Minkah Fitzpatrick trade. Coach Mike Tomlin and General Manager Kevin Colbert spent a lot of time studying Fitzpatrick when he came out for the 2018 NFL Draft because safety was the key position they were looking at. The Steelers had the 28th overall pick in the draft, where they selected Terrell Edmunds, and Fitzpatrick went 11th overall to the Miami Dolphins.
“We really studied Minkah closely in the process leading up to the draft,” said Tomlin. “It was no secret that we were in the market for a high end safety, in fact we ended up drafting Edmunds later in the round. We did our due diligence, we looked at Minkah. We knew it was somewhat of a pipe dream because of his global position in the draft. Having gone down there for both Alabama pro days, interviewed him, spent time with him, it really made this process a clean process for Kevin and I in terms of decision making because we had spent that time with him, we did evaluate him and we did have a great deal of comfort in his abilities.
“I think it’s our overall level of comfort with the player. It’s no secret that we were in the market for a safety when he came out. We did our due diligence on all of those guys. He was a guy I went to Tuscaloosa twice for in the draft process for. When you get into these circumstances where you are talking about possibilities, there was a sense of readiness, a sense of knowing among us about his capabilities, his character, his football abilities and his abilities to fit within what we do. All of those boxes had been checked prior to the draft.
“He is still very much a young guy. It’s exciting from our perspective. We were excited about the potential of getting one of the top notch safeties in that class. A short period of time later we have a tandem from that class. That’s exciting to think about those guys having an opportunity to play together as soon as this weekend. The big picture to grow together systematically.”
Staying anchored: Fitzpatrick has the ability to play multiple positions in the secondary, but Tomlin made it clear, and all you have to do is look at the team’s depth chart, to see that he is the starter at free safety as of right now and that is the position they are going to focus on.
“We're excited about infusing him into the fold,” said Tomlin. “He will be playing the safety position this weekend in the game. We are going to quickly get him up to speed. We’ve got almost a full week to prepare him to play. He is a sharp guy. That was evident in getting to know him in the draft process. It’s also really evident when you watch Miami Dolphins tape and see the myriad of things they asked him to do during his time there. He has played corner, outside corner, inside corner, both safety positions. Sub-package linebacker positions. You can’t ask him to do the many things the Dolphins asked him to do schematically without being a really sharp guy.
“At some point it’s going to be an asset to us, but in the short-term we’re not going to move him around a great deal this first time out. We’re going to anchor him down and allow him to focus on one position and put him in the very best position to be a positive contributor to our efforts this weekend that way. Really excited about that acquisition.”
Not concerned: Keeping Fitzpatrick focused on one position doesn’t mean he will be limited in his snaps on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.
Tomlin did say, though, that he hasn’t determined yet if the defensive calls will be limited based on Fitzpatrick just getting familiar with the system and they will make that determination closer to game time.
“Based on what I know about him, researching him in the draft and looking at the myriad of things he did while in Miami, I am not concerned about this guy being able to play and play good football for us on a significant number of snaps this weekend,” said Tomlin.