Minkah Fitzpatrick

Steelers S Minkah Fitzpatrick Out With Appendicitis; OLB T.J. Watt Activated

6:00pm: After undergoing an appendectomy to deal with the appendicitis Fitzpatrick suffered through in walkthroughs today, the two-time All-Pro safety is expected to miss multiple weeks in recovery, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The Steelers will want Fitzpatrick back on the field as soon as possible, but typically, appendectomies have resulted in missing more than one week. Schefter points at the most recent major player to undergo the procedure as an example. Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow underwent the surgery just before training camp and missed two-and-a-half weeks.

A similar-length absence would see Fitzpatrick miss tomorrow’s game and next weekend’s matchup vs the Bengals. An extra day means that he could return in time for the team’s Monday night game in Indianapolis the week after, but that’s an extremely optimistic timeline.

Behind Norwood, whom we mentioned below as the likely replacement, Pittsburgh recently returned Damontae Kazee from IR. They’ll also have Miles Killebrew and the practice squad elevation, Riley.

2:09pm: The Steelers have been looking forward to the return of star pass rusher T.J. Watt from injured reserve this week but are now expected to be without safety Minkah Fitzpatrick who is reportedly dealing with appendicitis, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. The team has also officially activated Watt from IR and placed cornerback William Jackson III on IR.

Fitzpatrick is set to miss his first game of the season and just the second game of his career. Despite the team’s struggles this year, Fitzpatrick has maintained a high level of play. He has been all over the defensive backfield this year racking up six passes defensed along with three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. Being only halfway through the season, Fitzpatrick is on track for career highs in both numbers, assuming he can make a quick return from his appendicitis.

In the lone game Fitzpatrick has missed before this, which occurred last season, the Steelers started then-rookie seventh-round pick Tre Norwood in his place. Norwood had already made two starts at the time, being one of the first defensive backs off the bench in packages that called for five or six defensive backs, but that was his first game playing 100% of the team’s defensive snaps and playing specifically in Fitzpatrick’s role. The Steelers’ pass defense struggled that day in a loss to the Chargers in which quarterback Justin Herbert passed for nearly 400 yards. It’s hard to blame the loss on Norwood’s stand-in performance, but considering the Steelers finished 2021 as a top-10 passing defense, one can infer some importance concerning Fitzpatrick’s absence. This year, Norwood started in place of an injured Terrell Edmunds in a Week 5 matchup against the Bills. Again, correlation does not exactly equal causation, but the team’s pass defense once again struggled as quarterback Josh Allen passed for 424 yards and four touchdowns on only 20 completions.

The return of Watt should be heralded in the Steel City as a giant addition to the defense. Outside of outside linebacker Alex Highsmith and defensive tackle Cameron Heyward, the Steelers have struggled to produce an effective pass rush. Pittsburgh will gladly welcome pack their star defender who produced 22.5 sacks in only 15 games last season. Returning the reigning Defensive Player of the Year back to the field may not totally make up for the absence of Fitzpatrick, but it sure helps.

Jackson has yet to make his Steelers debut after being traded from the Commanders 11 days ago, and his debut will have to wait at least four more games after being placed on IR. Jackson had already missed the past three games for Washington while dealing with a back injury. Even though the season is only half over, the Steelers are far enough back in the division race that there is no sense in rushing Jackson to return from a back injury before he’s ready.

Lastly, in response to Fitzpatrick’s absence, the Steelers have elevated safety Elijah Riley from the practice squad for this weekend’s game against the Saints.

Steelers Rule Out Minkah Fitzpatrick, Top 3 CBs For Week 6

Mike Tomlin‘s .500-or-better streak is facing perhaps its biggest threat yet. After the Steelers’ 38-3 loss to the Bills, they will be without nearly their entire starting secondary against the Buccaneers.

Pittsburgh ruled out Minkah Fitzpatrick with the knee injury he sustained in Buffalo and will also sit cornerbacks Cameron Sutton, Ahkello Witherspoon and Levi Wallace against Tampa Bay. Hamstring injuries will sideline Sutton and Witherspoon, while Wallace suffered a concussion against his former team. Starting safety Terrell Edmunds missed Week 5 with a concussion but practiced fully all week.

Since the Steelers acquired Fitzpatrick from the Dolphins in September 2019, they have only been without him in one game — due to COVID-19 last season. Fitzpatrick played 96% of Pittsburgh’s defensive snaps last week. The team rewarded its two-time All-Pro this summer with a four-year, $72.99MM extension. The team re-signed Witherspoon and added Wallace — each on low-cost contracts.

Sutton and Wallace played against the Bills, while Witherspoon will miss a third straight game. The team started Arthur Maulet in place of Witherspoon in Buffalo; James Pierre is the team’s only other healthy corner on the 53-man roster. Former second-round picks Josh Jackson and Quincy Wilson reside on Pittsburgh’s practice squad, which houses four corners. Duke Dawson and second-year UDFA Mark Gilbert are on that 16-man P-squad. Still, this creates quite the advantageous spot for Tom Brady and his receiving corps.

The Steelers rank 30th in total defense and 26th in points allowed. They started 1-3 last season and began 1-4 during Ben Roethlisberger‘s 2019 injury season but rallied back to .500-or-better marks in each year. The only season in which the Steelers sat four games under .500 during Tomlin’s tenure came in 2013, when the team rallied back to 8-8.

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/4/22

Today’s minor transactions:

Arizona Cardinals

Carolina Panthers

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Los Angeles Rams

New York Giants

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Washington Commanders

Minor NFL Transactions: 7/27/22

Today’s minor NFL transactions:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Dallas Cowboys

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Kansas City Chiefs

Miami Dolphins

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Pittsburgh Steelers

Seattle Seahawks

  • Signed: OL Keenan Forbes, G Eric Wilson

Minor NFL Transactions: 7/26/22

Today’s minor NFL transactions, including a handful of notable names landing on the physically unable to perform list and the non-football injury list as teams open up camp:

Arizona Cardinals

Chicago Bears

Cleveland Browns

Denver Broncos

Green Bay Packers

Indianapolis Colts

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

  • Released with NFI designation: WR Cody Core

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Washington Commanders

Latest On Minkah Fitzpatrick, Kenny Pickett Contracts

In terms of overall structure, the extension that the Steelers recently authorized for star safety Minkah Fitzpatrick is fairly straightforward. As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes, Fitzpatrick landed a $17.5MM signing bonus, and from 2022-26, the two-time First Team All-Pro will earn base salaries of $4MM, $14.5MM, $14.5MM, $15.5MM, and $17.6MM.

What is particularly notable in light of Pittsburgh’s historic approach to contract negotiations is that, in addition to guaranteeing Fitzpatrick’s $4MM salary for 2022, his $14.5MM salary for 2023 is also fully-guaranteed. Before edge defender T.J. Watt signed his record-setting extension last year, the Steelers had never guaranteed any money beyond a contract’s first year for a non-QB veteran player. But Watt landed three fully-guaranteed years, and now Fitzpatrick has two fully-guaranteed seasons.

Former GM Kevin Colbert was at the helm when Watt’s deal was signed, and the Fitzpatrick signing will go on new GM Omar Khan‘s ledger. Khan, like Colbert, has been in the Steelers’ front office for over 20 years, so as Florio suggests, the Watt contract was not so much an aberration as it was a sign of an organizational policy shift.

Still, Fitzpatrick’s deal shouldn’t be particularly difficult for Pittsburgh to stomach. There is every reason to believe that the 25-year-old will continue to play at a high level over the 2022-23 seasons, and if the team does not want to continue the relationship beyond that, it will be easy enough to get out of the remainder of the contract. Given that the Steelers’ QB depth chart presently features a rookie signal-caller (Kenny Pickett), a former first-rounder looking to reestablish himself as a starter (Mitchell Trubisky), and a player who has enjoyed limited success in his first four years as a pro (Mason Rudolph), it will be especially important for their defensive stars to keep shining for them to to stay competitive in the near term.

Speaking of Pickett, the University of Pittsburgh product is one of just two 2022 first-rounders who have yet to sign their rookie deals. And it could be that he is pushing the Steelers to set yet another new precedent. As Ben Volin of the Boston Globe writes, the structure of Pickett’s four-year, $14MM fully-guaranteed contract is really the only explanation for the delay. Many rookies push for higher roster bonuses and lower base salaries so they can get paid more money upfront, but the Steelers have never authorized that type of payout. It will be interesting to see if they make an exception for the player they hope will serve as their starting quarterback for years to come, and if so, how that will impact negotiations with future draft choices.

Steelers Sign Minkah Fitzpatrick To Record-Setting Extension

The Steelers have reached agreement on an extension with All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrickper ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link). The fifth-year defender signed a four-year contract which will pay him more than $18.4MM per year. The Steelers have announced the signing.

Schefter adds that the pact includes $36MM in guaranteed money. The deal comes as the 25-year-old was soon to begin a contract year in 2022. He was already on the books for one more season at $10.6MM, by virtue of his fifth-year option being picked up. Now, he is set be with the Steelers for the long-term.

Fitzpatrick quickly lived up to his draft stock as the No. 11 overall pick in 2018 with the Dolphins. His time in Miami was very short-lived, however, as he was dealt to Pittsburgh midway through the 2019 campaign. The Steelers paid a significant price to acquire him, sending a package which included a first-rounder, but Fitzpatrick has been worth it up to this point. Starting in all 46 contests he has appeared in with Pittsburgh, he has registered 203 tackles and 11 interceptions.

His level of play has earned him a pair of Pro Bowl nods and two appearances on the First-Team All-Pro list. As a result, the matter of an extension had long been seen as one of the top priorities for the Steelers’ front office, now led by Omar Khan. The possibility was raised of the Alabama alum conducting a ‘hold-in’ during mandatory minicamp to try and leverage a new deal, but that will no longer be necessary.

The value of this contract will make Fitzpatrick the league’s all-time highest-paid safety. Jamal Adams had held the top spot at $17.5MM-per-season, but this deal is the new watermark in a positional market which could continue to be on the rise with subsequent deals. Extensions for the likes of Derwin James and Jessie Bates will no doubt be influenced by this one.

“Minkah is one of the top safeties in the NFL and we are thrilled he will be in Pittsburgh through at least the next five years” Khan said, via the team’s website“When we traded for him, we knew he was going to be an integral part of our defense and we look forward to that continuing as we prepare for the upcoming season.”

With fellow defensive pillar T.J. Watt under contract for the long-term already, the Steelers have another foundational player signed through the transition into the post-Ben Roethlisberger era. While questions remain on the offensive side of the ball heading into this season, the team’s pass defense will have one of its most important elements in place for the foreseeable future.

Steelers Rumors: Fitzpatrick, Tuitt, Loudermilk

As Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick enters the fifth-year option of his rookie contract, the 25-year-old is looking for an extension from the team that acquired him via trade three years ago. According to The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly, Fitzpatrick is a likely candidate to perform a “hold-in” if he doesn’t have a new contract by training camp.

As opposed to the traditional contract hold-out, a “hold-in” would see Fitzpatrick attend training camp while not participating in any serious manner. Due to rules in the new CBA, a player has to be fined $50,000 per day for skipping training camp. Fitzpatrick’s teammate, defensive end T.J. Watt, performed the same inactive action last year.

Here are a few other rumors from the Steel City:

  • Defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt‘s retirement this past week has some effect on the Steelers’ cap spending in the next few years, according to a separate article from Kaboly. As a post-June 1 designation, the Steelers will save just over $9MM against the cap this year. Because they put voidable years into Tuitt’s contract last year to spread out his cap hit, though, they will still accrue dead money of $4.9MM this year and $4.8MM next season. They do have the option to recoup a portion of Tuitt’s signing bonus from the contract’s initiation, but Pittsburgh has never pursued this course of action with any other players who took early retirements, so it’s unlikely they will do so with the grieving Tuitt.
  • One of the places Pittsburgh will look to replace Tuitt is internally. According to a third Kaboly-article, the Steelers have some hope that last year’s fifth-round draft pick out of Wisconsin, Isaiahh Loudermilk, will be able to replace some of the retired defensive lineman’s production. Other internal options are Tyson Alualu, Chris Wormley, and 2022 third-round pick DeMarvin Leal. Alualu is coming off a broken ankle, Wormley struggles against the run, and Leal is unproven and a tad undersized. Loudermilk saw plenty of action last year and proved himself as a sure run-defender, while struggling to create any pass-rush. Since the Steelers have pass-rushers aplenty in Watt, Alex Highsmith, and Cameron Heyward, being a stout run-defender might make Loudermilk the perfect option to take Tuitt’s snaps.

Latest On Minkah Fitzpatrick Extension Talks

Don’t expect a Minkah Fitzpatrick extension anytime soon. A source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler that the Steelers “won’t be rushed into a deal.”

This could ultimately be the difference of a few months, as Fowler estimates that Pittsburgh could start negotiations with their star safety in July. However, if Pittsburgh still follows soon-to-be-retired GM Kevin Colbert’s philosophy of not negotiating in-season, that would give the organization a limited amount of time to discuss a deal. After having his fifth-year option picked up, Fitzpatrick has one year remaining on his contract.

As Fowler notes, the Steelers have been willing to extend their former first-round picks, with T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, and David DeCastro all getting new deals before the start of their fifth-year option season. Watt’s extension also set a new precedent, as the Steelers were willing to offer guarantees beyond the signing bonus, something the organization used to shy away from. A new GM could change any front office philosophy, but the organization’s apparent preference for internal candidates (and their continued reliance on Colbert) indicates they want to keep things running as normal.

Fowler estimates that Fitzpatrick will be aiming for a contract in the range of Jamal Adams‘ deal, which reset the market at the position at $17.5MM. The 25-year-old could certainly justify a top salary, as he’s established himself as one of the league’s top safeties since joining the Steelers in 2019. Fitzpatrick earned first-team All-Pro nods in both 2019 and 2020, and while he didn’t earn any accolades in 2021, he still finished with a career-high 124 tackles to go along with seven passes defended and two interceptions.

Latest On Steelers’ Safety Search

The 2021 offseason has seen the Steelers make number of changes, most notably at the quarterback position. Another area of the roster which has become a priority, though, is safety. As ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reports, the team has a number of options at the position. 

Fowler notes the connection some have made between the Steelers and the top remaining option at safety, Tyrann Mathieu. Given his pedigree and versatility – not to mention the unusually-large amount of financial flexibility Pittsburgh has this offseason – a deal between the two sides would make a good deal of sense. However, Fowler cautions that he is unsure how “real” that connection actually is.

That could lead the Steelers to a familiar face at the position. Fowler states that “a reunion is not off the table” between the team and Terrell Edmunds. The 25-year-old started 60 of his 64 games with Pittsburgh, racking up 340 tackles and five interceptions. With fellow safety Minkah Fitzpatrick only under contract for one more year, bringing back Edmunds on a short-term deal would at least provide continuity at the position for 2022.

Lastly, Fowler names Damontae Kazee as another noteworthy option. The 28-year-old spent last season in Dallas after four in Atlanta. For his career, he has totalled 12 interceptions (including a league-leading seven in 2018) and 7 pass deflections. Fowler reports that the Steelers “have him on their radar”.

Pittsburgh currently has just under $16MM in cap space; fitting in any of the three players named above should be relatively straightforward, then. Whether the team decides to add one of them, or go in another direction, could go a long way to helping their defense rebound from an overall disappointing performance in 2021.