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In 14 games with the Pittsburgh Steelers last season, Minkah Fitzpatrick tied for the team lead with five interceptions, was selected to the Pro Bowl and became the team’s first defensive back to be named first-team All-Pro since Troy Polamalu in 2011.
As an encore, Fitzpatrick would like to bring more to the defense in 2020, his first full season with the team that acquired him at the expense of a first-round draft pick.
He believes it is possible as long as the Steelers coaching staff, opposing quarterbacks and the up-in-the-air schedule allow him to do it.
After playing mostly free safety after his acquisition from the Miami Dolphins, Fitzpatrick is open to filling other roles on the defense, whether lining up in the box, playing cornerback in slot or being given the freedom to roam that Polamalu enjoyed a decade earlier.
He also is content trying to improve at a singular position as he enters his third NFL season.
“If the coaches want me to move around, I’ll move around,” Fitzpatrick said Tuesday on a video conference call.
“If they don’t, then I don’t need to. I wouldn’t say it’s a goal. If they need me to move around, I’ll learn the system and get it down to a ‘T’ just in case I have to or if they ask me to move.”
Fitzpatrick was plenty dangerous during his indoctrination to the Steelers defense last year. He tied cornerback Joe Haden for the team lead with five interceptions. He defended nine passes, forced one fumble and recovered two more.
Altogether, Fitzpatrick was involved in eight of the Steelers’ 37 takeaways, with both totals representing NFL highs. He had a 96-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts and a 43-yard fumble return for a score a week later against the Los Angeles Rams. Both plays were pivotal in games the Steelers won by two and five points, respectively.
With Fitzpatrick binding the defense together on the back end, the Steelers finished third in the NFL against the pass and fifth in total defense. According to Pro Football Focus, Fitzpatrick allowed eight catches on 16 targets and held quarterbacks to a 27.3 passer rating, the best figure from Week 3 until the end of the season.
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