A few months after becoming the highest-paid safety in the NFL, Pittsburgh Steelers star Minkah Fitzpatrick proved once again he’s worth every penny, turning in a rather stellar 2022 season.
With a relatively healthy supporting cast around him, Fitzpatrick returned to his ballhawking ways in 2022 after a down 2021 season, tying for the league lead in interceptions with six, serving as that eraser in the secondary for the Steelers all season long on his way to a Pro Bowl berth and another First Team All-Pro nod.
Due to his play on the field, Fitzpatrick graded out as the second-best safety in the NFL, at least according to Pro Football Focus’ grading metrics, which released the top 25 ranking from the 2022 season at the safety position Thursday.
Fitzpatrick’s 82.4 overall grade was second in the NFL behind Seattle’s Ryan Neal (85.6( and just ahead of New Orleans’ Tyrann Mathieu (81.2).
“Fitzpatrick followed up an offseason where he became one of the league’s highest-paid safeties with a career year in terms of PFF grades, including top-eight marks in run defense (82.2) and coverage (83.3),” PFF’s Jonathan Macri writes regarding Fitzpatrick’s ranking. “Fitzpatrick played more than 900 defensive snaps across 15 games, which moves him a spot ahead of others with comparable grades who played fewer games and snaps. Fitzpatrick was truly Pittsburgh’s last line of defense, racking up 94 total tackles from his deep safety role while adding six interceptions, which tied for the league lead.”
Fitzpatrick was nothing short of spectacular in 2022. He was all over the field once again and really thrived when allowed to play that centerfield, roaming robber role in Pittsburgh’s defense, which allowed him to read the play, trust his eyes and instincts and fly around on the field.
The star safety started the year off with a bang, picking off Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow on the second play from scrimmage and racing home 31 yards to give the Steelers a 7-0 lead just under a minute into the game in Week 1, and then later blocked an extra point that would have given the Bengals a win before Pittsburgh ultimately won the game on a Chris Boswell kick in overtime.
Fitzpatrick also sealed the win on the road against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 13 with an interception, and was as good as it gets throughout the season for the Steelers, especially in the second half of the season as the Steelers rallied from a 2-6 start to finish 9-8 on the year.
Ranking second overall at the position in 2022 feels rather low overall, but PFF’s grading metrics have always been wonky. Neal was below Fitzpatrick in grades across the board in every category but coverage, which was nearly a dead heap, yet somehow he was three points better than him in the grading system.
Neal wasn’t even a full-time starter either, not stepping into the lineup up Week 5 due to Jamal Adams’ injury.
While he might sit second in the grading system from PFF, the voters for All-Pro and Pro Bowl spoke, and spoke highly of Fitzpatrick. Nobody was better at the position in 2022 than Fitzpatrick.