Steelers' Minkah Fitzpatrick uses Top 100 snub as 'fuel' ahead of workout: 'It got me fired up'

When CBS Sports' Pete Prisco unveiled his annual Top 100 ranking of the best players in the NFL, one omission drew a stronger reaction than any other: that of Pittsburgh Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who went All-Pro in 2019 as a starring member of the Steelers' highly-acclaimed defense. Not only was Fitzpatrick deemed the biggest snub of Prisco's list, but the Pro Bowler himself couldn't help but react, tweeting this week that he'd use the ranking as "fuel" for 2020.

On Saturday, Fitzpatrick took his defense a step further, joining current Steelers teammate Cameron Heyward for an interview with former Steelers cornerback Bryant McFadden on CBS Sports HQ.

"Usually I don't pay attention to the media, because a lot of it is just opinion," the former Miami Dolphins standout told McFadden. "Honestly, I laughed at it. It's whatever. He thinks he's right ... and then I was trying to get myself fired up before a workout, so I kept watching the video ... I really shouldn't have (responded), but it got me fired up. It worked."

Heyward, a three-time Pro Bowler, called Fitzpatrick one of the leaders on Pittsburgh's defense -- a unit aiming "not just to be a top-five defense but to be No. 1" in 2020 -- and was even more blunt about Prisco's ranking.

You name another player in the top 100 who did (what he did)," Heyward said. "I can't name 100 players better than him ... Him leaving Minkah off was dumbfounding to me."

Fitzpatrick added that he might continue to use the top-100 snub as motivation moving forward. Recounting memories from his college days at Alabama, the third-year veteran even laughingly considered McFadden's suggestion to hang Prisco's picture in his locker.

"Sometimes it's beneficial just to use it as motivation," he said. "It's not beneficial to be looking at it all the time, but in Alabama, we would put quotes from the other team in our lockers, what they said about us, how they would beat us, and it worked."

Drafted 11th overall by the Dolphins in 2018, Fitzpatrick was traded to the Steelers for a first-round pick last September. In 14 games with Pittsburgh, the former Crimson Tide star racked up 57 tackles, nine pass deflections and a career-high five interceptions to go along with two touchdowns and forced fumbles. His instant production came in part due to the staff's embrace of what he called his natural position of free safety.

"(Free safety) is going to maximize that skill set," he said Saturday. "And I think this past season showed my skill set. I'm not a strong safety. I could do it, but it's not gonna maximize myself as a player. I think that coach (Mike) Tomlin did a great job studying me and making sure they were maximizing not just myself but everyone on the defense."

CBS Sports Writer

Cody Benjamin joined CBS Sports in 2017 after time spent with SB Nation, various newspapers and his own Eagles outlet. Raised around the Philly sports scene, he now lives in Minnesota with his wife and... Full Bio

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