J.J. Watt feels that younger brother T.J. Watt is the NFL’s best defensive player. The elder Watt is also pretty high on one of T.J.’s teammates, free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Watt, the recently retired three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and current CBS NFL analyst, who next month will share the cover of a Wheaties box with T.J. (the middle Watt, veteran NFL fullback Derek Watt, will be on the back of the box), made a point to mention Fitzpatrick when asked to assess the Steelers’ defense heading into the 2023 season.
“The Steelers have an incredible pass rush, and they have the best safety in the game in Minkah Fitzpatrick,” Watt recently said during an interview with CBS Sports. ‘They’ve got guys all over the place … and when T.J.’s flying off that edge and making quarterbacks make poor decisions, that’s when they really click on all cylinders.”
Fitzpatrick, 26, is entering his fifth season with the Steelers. During that time, the former Miami Dolphins first-round pick has blossomed into one of the NFL’s premier defensive players. In 2022, he was tabbed as an All-Pro for the third time in the past four years on the strength of his league-high six interceptions.
“My eyeballs,” Watt said with a smile when asked to elaborate on his claim of Fitzpatrick being the league’s top safety. “The guy can cover anybody. He can make tackles. He can do anything. He sees the whole field.
“The way that he moves back there, as a safety, you kind of have to cover everybody and make sure that you see everything that’s going on. You have to be able to go over and cover for the corner if you have to and sometimes step up and fill the A gap. I think he sees the field extremely well. I don’t think he gets enough credit for that, even though he does get quite a bit of credit.”
It’s safe to say that T.J. Watt agrees with his brother. Watt was named Defensive Player of the Year in 2021. That same year, Fitzpatrick had possibly his most impressive season. That year, with the Steelers struggling to stop the run, Fitzpatrick was asked to do more in run support. While it resulted in a career-high 124 tackles, Fitzpatrick was unable to make as many plays in the passing game, which ultimately led to him not receiving a Pro Bowl bid.
“I’m going to go out there and do whatever Coach T asks me to do and whatever the team needs me to do in order to win,” Fitzpatrick told CBS Sports last summer when asked about his willingness to adjust his game. “Last year, it was making a lot of tackles, and the year before that, it was getting a lot of turnovers. Whatever this year brings, this year brings.”
Fitzpatrick was able to resume his typical duties last season, and it resulted in an All-Pro campaign. Last season also reinforced what J.J., T.J. and many others already knew: Fitzpatrick is one of, if not the, best safety in the game.
“You’re not going to find someone who works harder and who wants it more and who is committed off the field as well,” T.J. Watt said of Fitzpatrick ahead of Pittsburgh’s upcoming training camp. “I sit next to him in the team meeting room and he’s always taking notes.
“He’s a hell of a player. That’s the cool thing about being on the inside is I understand why. It’s because he works so hard to be the player that he is. He’s just provided so much splash to our defense, and I’m just glad that he’s on our side.”
Read full post on CBSSports.com Headlines