Minkah Fitzpatrick remains a controversial figure in Miami because of the way his brief stay ended, and it probably won't make Dolphins fans feel better to hear him say he's willing to move around the Pittsburgh Steelers secondary in 2020.
Fitzpatrick will be heading into his first full season with the Steelers after being traded last September after he requested to be moved.
While Fitzpatrick never fully revealed why he wanted to leave the Dolphins, the belief is it was a combination of being asked to play multiple roles in the Miami defense and not wanting to go through the pains of the massive rebuilding project of 2019.
The first issue is what is going to make his comments in a video conference call this week so troublesome for Dolphins fans. The Steelers kept Fitzpatrick at free safety after the trade and he ended up earning AP first-team All-Pro honors, though he said opponents began to stay away from him in the second half of the season.
"I think last year coming in at the time I did, I didn’t know the defense as well as I do now," Fitzpatrick said. "The coaches just wanted to keep it simple for me and they did. I appreciate that. Now, I would say, if the coaches want me to move around, I’ll move around. 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’m trying to learn the position and get it down to a T, so if they ask me to, I can move."
Now, let us take you back to some comments Fitzpatrick made last August after a training camp practice with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when he was being used as a strong safety close to the line of scrimmage.
“You just got to do it, man," Fitzpatrick said. "If you resist it, you’re not going to play well. If you think about playing somewhere else, you’re not going to make the most of your position. I’m not 215 pounds, 220 pounds. So playing in the box isn’t best suited for me, but that’s what Coach is asking me to do. I’m going to go out there and practice my hardest. I might lose some of the matchups in the box, but I’m going to try my hardest. The coaches know what my skill set is. I talked to them. They know I can cover. They saw it last year. I can go out there on the outside. But they’re still trying to figure out. It’s Week 2 in the preseason. We still have got some time and we just got to trust the process.”
One thing that needs to be pointed out is that while the Steelers will vary the way Fitzpatrick is used in the secondary, the expectation is that he won't be asked to line up in the box.
Some also might question the idea of using Fitzpatrick as in in-the-box defender in the first place, though his time at the University of Alabama included some snaps at linebacker.
After the second game of the 2019 regular season, Fitzpatrick got his wish and was sent to the Steelers for a 2020 first-round pick that became tackle Austin Jackson (there also were later-round picks exchanged).
"With Minkah, it was just one of those things," GM Chris Grier said at the time. "The player had expressed that (it was) maybe time for him to change, so we tried to make it work. Myself, (Head Coach) Brian (Flores) and (Chairman of the Board/Managing General Partner) Steve (Ross), we had multiple conversations with him, saying we wanted him here and viewed him as a core piece and wanted him here. The kid just felt it was time for him to move, and we told him what the value was. We told teams we had multiple offers, and we felt that the Pittsburgh one was the one best for the organization.”
This was a difficult trade for the Dolphins because there's no question that Fitzpatrick is a talented player, and the Steelers defense clearly took a big step forward.
The Dolphins defense no doubt still could use a player of Fitzpatrick's caliber, but there's also something to be said for having every player willing to sacrifice for the team. Flores wants versatility, and he's now got a lot of those type of players throughout the roster.
Fitzpatrick has the ability to play multiple roles — and play all of them very well — and it now appears he's more than willing to do that. Not that it does the Dolphins any good anymore.