The idea of moving Minkah Fitzpatrick around the defense has been floated around a lot lately. The thought seems to make sense on the surface. Teams actively avoided throwing at him pretty much the entire second half of last season. As a result, his productivity dropped dramatically the final eight games of the season. Fitzpatrick did not have an interception after week nine, after accumulating five in the previous eight weeks. So in theory, moving Minkah around pre-snap will make it more difficult on opposing offenses. Makes perfect sense right? Wrong!
The Keith Butler Effect:
We have never been fans of Keith Butler here at Steelers Sanctuary. Don’t be fooled: Keith Butler has not suddenly become a good coordinator
During his reign as defensive coordinator, this team has struggled mightily with getting lined up properly. Tasking Butler with designing schemes where there are even more moving parts has disaster written all over it. We thought the days of uncovered receivers, and mass confusion on defense were a thing of the past. Well, not if they are planning to go this route with the defense.
Butler has proven time and again that when this defense relies too heavily on his coaching ability, it fails miserably. They are finally at the point where there is just too much talent for this defense to fail. One way to counteract that though is to have Keith Butler complicate things. The less the Steelers defense relies on Butler, the better.
The Minkah Problem:
Minkah Fitzpatrick once again made it pretty clear he is not a fan of moving around the defense. In a recent interview, he was adamant on staying put at free safety. https://www.steelers.com/video/fitzpatrick-i-m-a-competitor
He even went out of his way to point out that he was happy being an “All-Pro, Pro Bowl” last year at his current position. Fitzpatrick knows he is a great free safety, and that’s where he wants to stay. Who can blame him? He thrived at the position to the point where he is now considered one of the top free safeties in the game.
The idea of playing multiple positions within the defense is what landed Minkah Fitzpatrick in Pittsburgh in the first place. The Dolphins wanted him to play as many as six different spots along their defense. That resulted in a trade demand, and eventually a move out of Miami. https://www.miamiherald.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/armando-salguero/article235019047.html
So why go down this road again? The player clearly wants to play his position, and his position only. It’s clear he is among that very best at that said position. Moving Fitzpatrick away from what he does best, for any reason, makes no sense whatsoever.
Making a strength a weakness:
The old saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” comes to mind in this situation. The Pittsburgh Steelers defense was among the best in the NFL last season. A fact that is almost miraculous when you look at how poorly it played in the two games before Minkah Fitzpatrick was acquired. His ability to effectively eliminate any big plays in the passing game unlocked the entire defense. Opposing quarterbacks couldn’t rely on the normal secondary breakdowns the Steelers were infamous for. That in turn allowed both TJ Watt and Bud Dupree the time to post record individual sack numbers. The whole defense operated infinitely better because of the specific skill set Minkah Fitzpatrick brought to the table.
So now the Steelers want to tinker with that? It’s the classic trap of overthinking things. Let’s all hope the Steelers don’t fall into this way of thinking. Nobody wants to see Keith Butler trying frantically to coach up a bunch of moving parts pre-snap. Nobody wants to see Terrell Edmunds as the last line of defense. In fact, nobody wants to see any change on this defense at all. Least of all with the team’s All-Pro free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.