PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler said he's not ready to give Minkah Fitzpatrick all the free reign just yet, but he sees some tendencies that allow him to play somewhat like the last great safety in the Steel City.
"Minkah is good enough to play anywhere we've got on the field," Butler told reports Thursday. "He knows the defense. We're gonna move him down in the box sometimes, sometimes we're gonna put him in the post-safety."
In Week 1, the team did just that. Fitzpatrick played roles at free safety, dimebacker and the slot against the Buffalo Bills, finishing with team-leading 10 tackles. It was the first time he's really gotten to move around since joining the Steelers three seasons ago.
"It was new for him last week," Butler said. "Not when he was at Alabama. He did it at Alabama. We figured he can do it here too and he can."
In a one-week sample size, it's worked. However, Fitzpatrick's teammates have seen this Polamalu-like play since the day he arrived in Pittsburgh.
"You know, Troy is Hall of Fame, but if there's a player we can compare him to, I like Minkah," Steelers cornerback Joe Haden said. "I've heard Troy isn't too much of a talker. You don't say too much, you let your ball say for itself. And, at the same time, always wanting to be the best.
"Minkah prepares as if he's not even on the team. That just shows that you've got your All-Pro safety; what are you not to be working hard.
"I didn't get to play with Troy, but I can see playing with Minkah that that's kind of the same person."
Haden said he likes Fitzpatrick as the free safety just in case. And while the Steelers hope these comparisons are as true as they seem, they aren't prepared to let Fitzpatrick go full-Polamalu just yet.
"Troy Polamalu played that position and you guys gave him free range," a reporter said to Butler. "Is Minkah Fitzpatrick going to have those same liberties?"
"Not as much, but he's a good player for us," Butler said. "We like what he can do. We're gonna move him, we're gonna use his versatility."
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