The Steelers' trade of a first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft to the Dolphins for Minkah Fitzpatrick is a major addition to this ever-changing secondary. He joins Joe Haden, Terrell Edmunds and Steven Nelson as starters this team has added in the past three seasons.
But Fitzpatrick is different.
He was a standout safety at Alabama two years ago, good enough to be the 11th overall pick with 24 passes defensed, nine interceptions and four of those for touchdowns. And as a rookie with Miami, he had nine passes defensed with two interceptions. On top of the ball skills, he's been a playmaker at strong and free safety, as well as outside and slot cornerback.
The Dolphins used Fitzpatrick primarily as a slot corner because of his quickness in space and ability to jump passes in his area.
Remember two weeks ago when Tom Brady went to Phillip Dorsett out of the slot four times for four catches, gaining 95 yards and two touchdowns against the Steelers?
Here's Fitzpatrick covering Dorsett out of the slot last season. Notice how he gets right in Dorsett's hip pocket in his seam route. Brady thinks he can throw a tight strike down the seam with the safety stuck in the middle of the field, but Fitzpatrick jumps the route and picks it off:
Fitzpatrick's footwork in space is impressive. He can change directions, start and stop on a dime and maintain field awareness to make plays on the ball, even as receivers try to shake him off.
Watch how he plays this wheel route from Anthony Miller of the Bears. The route starts from the slot to the flat, where Fitzpatrick is comfortable not jumping the route, knowing he can make the tackle for little or no gain. Then Miller turns up field and tries a stutter step to trip up Fitzpatrick.