In April the Pittsburgh Steelers elected to exercise the fifth-year option on first-team All-Pro free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, guaranteeting him $10.612 million in 2022. But for one more season he will remain a bargain, both in absolute and relative terms, especially when one considers that a group of 50 league executives, coaches, scouts and players recently identified him the best safety in the league in an ESPN NFL Insider poll.
“Most complete safety in the game,” said one high-ranking NFL official. “Elite instincts, athleticism, processor, field vision, positional flexibility, production in deep part of the field, [and] can cover man-to-man. Can do it all.”
“It’s his instincts, and he’s finally comfortable—they are playing him in the right spot,” added one NFC coach. “He studies, he knows first and second reads, and his return ability is elite.”
When it comes to Fitzpatrick, the numbers back up the eye test.
“He posted a league-best 45.5% completion percentage allowed when the nearest defender last season, along with a 60.2 passer rating,” notes ESPN Staff Writer Jeremy Fowler, who reveals that Denver Broncos free safety Justin Simmons came in at No. 2 in the rankings, with Budda Baker of the Arizona Cardinals third.
In 2021, Fitzpatrick will earn $2.723 million in salary (and count the same amount against Pittsburgh’s salary cap). At least one NFL observer regards the decision to trade for Fitzpatrick as the single-best move made by Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert, who himself was recently named the best GM in the league.
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Ex-Steelers International Pathway Player Signs with Harlequins
Earlier this week, former Steelers practice squad tight end Christian Scotland-Williamson, 27, signed with the Harlequins, one of 13 clubs that make up the Premiership Rugby league. Scotland-Williamson, who is 6-foot-9 and 273 pounds, spent the better part of three years with the Steelers as part of the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program, trying to make the transition from professional rugby to American football. The Steelers released him last July in favor of free agent tight end Dax Raymond.
Former Steelers Draft Pick Released by CFL’s Roughriders
On Saturday July 10, the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL opened training camp, but did so without former Steelers wide receiver Demarcus Ayers, 27, who was released on the same day that the Roughriders suspended another former Steelers wide receiver, Sammie Coates. Ayers was drafted by Pittsburgh in the seventh round of the 2016 NFL Draft, while Coates arrived in round three of the 2015 Draft.
The Roughriders’ training camp roster still features former Steelers seventh-rounder Keion Adams, as well as ex-Steelers quarterback Paxton Lynch, who signed with the Roughriders late last month. Lynch is battling for a job with four other quarterbacks, including Tom Flacco, younger brother of former Baltimore Ravens starter Joe Flacco.
Former Steelers DB Dicky Maegle Dies at 86
On Sunday July 4, former Steelers defensive back Dicky Maegle passed away at the age of 86. Maegle was selected No. 10 overall in the 1955 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. He went on to play for the 49ers for five years before closing out his professional career with the Steelers (1960) and Dallas Cowboys (1961). During his lone season in Pittsburgh he started six of 12 games and intercepted six passes, a good portion of his 28 career INTs.
During his playing days his last name was spelled Moegle; only later did he change it to Maegle. He is best remembered for an infamous play from the 1954 Cotton Bowl between Rice and Alabama. While well on his way to a 95-yard touchdown run, he was tackled by Alabama’s Tommy Lewis, who came off the bench to bring him down. Officials awarded Maegle a touchdown and Rice cruised to a 28-6 victory.
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