Minkah Fitzpatrick eyes expanded role in second year in Pittsburgh

In 14 games in Pittsburgh, Minkah Fitzpatrick proved every bit worthy of the first-round pick the Steelers traded away to acquire the defensive back.

After nearly a full season and an offseason -- albeit an unusual one -- with the Steelers coaching staff, Fitzpatrick believes he can play an even bigger role in 2020.

"I think last year, coming in at the time I did, I didn't know the playbook as well as I do now," Fitzpatrick said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "The coaches wanted to keep it simple for me, and they did. I appreciated that. Now, if the coaches want me to move around, I'll move around. If they don't, then I don't need to. I'm trying to learn the system and get it down to a 'T,' just in case if they ask me to move, I can move."

Fitzpatrick was a roving game-wrecker for the Steelers, earning first-team All-Pro honors, and was selected to the Pro Bowl. In 14 games with Pittsburgh, the defensive back compiled 57 tackles, one forced fumble, a fumble recovery, five interceptions, nine passes defended and a defensive TD.

Most of that production came early in the season. By the end of the campaign, quarterbacks stopped testing Fitzpatrick.

"I think teams started taking less shots down the field, taking less shots wherever I was," Fitzpatrick said. "If I was in the middle of the field, they were not going to be throwing in the middle of the field. If I was in half, they weren't going to be targeting that area where I was. I don't know if it was a game plan or decision-making by the quarterback, but I did realize a difference."

The free safety's influence on the Pittsburgh defense was evident. Per Pro Football Focus, in the first two games of the season before the trade, the Steelers allowed 155 passing yards on throws of 20-plus yards (tied for 11th most); the other 14 games total, they allowed just 376 yards on those plays (second-fewest).

After not loving how he was used in Miami, Fitzpatrick proved he's at his best as a play-making safety who can cover the entire field. While he'll continue that role in Pittsburgh, the 23-year-old is willing to take on whatever duties asked by Mike Tomlin's staff.

"I just like going out there making plays and being where I need to be, and last year where I needed to be was in the middle of the field," he said. "It worked out fine. This season, just keep doing what we need to win games. If that's [playing] corner, linebacker, whatever that may be, that's what I'm going to do."

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