By: Sean McGeown
Just a few days removed from being snubbed on CBS Sports Analyst Pete Prisco’s Top 100 List, Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro safety, Minkah Fitzpatrick went on air with CBS and reacted to his position, or lack there of, on the list. Fitzpatrick and Pro Bowl defensive captain of the team Cam Heyward were interviewed by former Pittsburgh defensive back, Bryant McFadden, now CBS analyst, who adamantly opposed the snub, basically the moment the list was released.
When asked about his initial reaction, Fitzpatrick simply said:
“Honestly I laughed at it, not in a disrespectful way. I was like you know, it’s whatever, he’s entitled to his opinion, you know, he thinks he’s right.”
He then said he watched it and tried to use it to get him fired up for a workout. He said he kept watching, which led to him responding, via twitter, to a video tweeted by CBS Sports of Prisco “doubling down” on his keeping Fitzpatrick off the list. This was his response:
No one agrees w you. But i appreciate the fuel https://t.co/Bdn0JZfWE1
— Minkah Fitzpatrick (@minkfitz_21) May 22, 2020
Fitzpatrick said he normally ignores things like this, but went on to say opinions like this that are aired out can be beneficial. He would use people’s opinions to fuel and motivate him to get better, comparing it to the way Michael Jordan was shown to do recently in The Last Dance Documentary. But Fitzpatrick would not let them control his thoughts and confidence. He said even in his college days at Alabama, he and his teammates would post negative quotes that their opponents said about them in their lockers to fire them up for games.
Heyward, who did make the list at 33 out of 100, also disagreed wholeheartedly with Prisco’s tape. As a matter of fact, he responded to the “double down” tweet as well:
So he clarified what Minkah did by if Rivers could do this than it he’s not an elite safety. And since when do we judge players off 3 games??? That’s baffling. Check our that Indy game, the 49ers game. And then the stats after we brought Minkah in are not just coincidental.
— Cam Heyward (@CamHeyward) May 21, 2020
He backed up his tweet during the interview, saying Fitzpatrick being left of the list was “Dumbfounding”. He rattled off Fitzpatrick’s stellar 2019 stats and then said:
“I can’t name 100 players better than him [Fitzpatrick]….I respect his opinion, but, when he [Prisco] looked at 3 games, I couldn’t rock with that.”
To be fair, he has a point. Take a look at Fitzpatrick’s stat line that landed him his first trip to the Pro Bowl and a spot on the First-Team All-Pro:
69 total tackles, 5 Interceptions, 9 Passes Defended, 2 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, and 2 defensive touchdowns.
That left him tied for 2nd in interceptions in the entire NFL, and in the games against the Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Rams (in which he scored), those plays were crucial for Pittsburgh to win the game. These two games were conveniently not on the 3 game list Prisco used to base his argument off of. These two wins helped Pittsburgh finish where it did at 8-8 in their first season in 16 years where they were without franchise QB Ben Roethlisberger who suffered a season ending elbow injury after just six quarters of football, and everyone was counting them out and labeling them as a team that would have a top 5 draft pick.
Not to mention the team’s defensive stats before and after Steelers General Manager, Kevin Colbert acquired Fitzpatrick in exchange for a first round pick:
The #Steelers defense before & after they traded for Minkah Fitzpatrick…
30.5 PPG 17.3
320.0 Pass YPG 176.7
125.0 Rush YPG 107.4
-32 Point Diff. +18
— NFL Stats (@NFL_Stats) May 22, 2020
Like Heyward said in his tweet, that turnaround and Fitzpatrick’s arrival happening at the same time were not coincidental. Put this all together, and it’s pretty clear he’s more than deserving of being on any football analyst’s top 100 list.
Heyward wasn’t the only one to have his teammates back. Steeler fans all over Twitter have come to Fitzpatrick’s defense, and when McFadden asked him how he felt about that, he said:
“It makes me feel good that we have such a strong fan base, their honestly the best in the world, there’s nothing like it. The city of Pittsburgh lives and breathes sports. So you know, seeing some of the comments and seeing them have my back was big to me and definitely meant a lot to me…..it’s deeply appreciated”
We appreciate you too Minkah, even if Prisco doesn’t.
The good news is, some of Fitzpatrick’s teammates DID make the list. Outside linebacker duo TJ Watt and Bud Dupree both made the list, ranked at 16 and 60 respectively, and wide out JuJu Smith-Schuster was ranked at 84. That makes you want to appreciate the list, but Fitzpatrick not being on it just doesn’t sit right from the standpoint of a Pittsburgh fan, or just a person who knows anything about football.
Fitzpatrick also said in the interview he is working and training diligently in the off-season to improve and be ready for the 2020 NFL season. He said aside from training, he is watching a bunch of film on himself and his teammates, and really trying to get the details of Pittsburgh’s defensive scheme down to enable him to play faster (imagine that?). Now with him claiming to be fueled by this opinion, you have to imagine he’s going to come into this year ready to prove Prisco and any other doubters wrong.
Aside from the individual stats and rankings, Heyward has some lofty goals for his unit as a whole, saying earlier in the interview that after finishing 5th in yards per game, he wants Pittsburgh’s defense to rank #1 overall in 2020, and believes the return of Roethlisberger will help them do just that by balancing out the team. Fitzpatrick didn’t say or sign anything to disagree with him, and you have to imagine he has the same mindset, especially after this egregious error on Prisco’s list.
With all that being said, do you believe Minkah should have been left off the list? Do you believe his response was warranted and that he will use the snub as motivation? Can Pittsburgh’s defense be even better than last year? Let us know in the comment section below, and on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!