With less than a week to go before the deadline, the Steelers have indeed picked up free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick's fifth-year option. An All-Pro during each of his first two seasons with Pittsburgh, Fitzpatrick essentially confirmed the news shortly after it was reported by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. Fitzpatrick's option will be a $10.61 million salary cap hit, an affordable number considering Fitzpatrick's impact.
The Steelers have until May 3 to pick up strong safety Terrell Edmunds' fifth-year option. The 28th overall pick in the 2018 draft, Edmunds has started in 43 of his 47 regular-season games with the Steelers. During his first three NFL seasons, the former Virginia Tech standout has logged 251 tackles, three interceptions and 15 passes defensed.
Fitzpatrick was the 11th overall pick in the 2018 draft. After 18 games with the Dolphins, he was traded to the Steelers in exchange for Pittsburgh's 2020 first-round pick. Pittsburgh, 0-2 at the time of the trade, won eight of their first 11 games with Fitzpatrick in their defensive backfield. Fitzpatrick's presence helped the Steelers jump from 10th in the league in pass defense in 2018 to third over the past two seasons. In 30 regular-season games with the Steelers, the former Alabama stalwart has tallied nine interceptions, 20 passes defensed, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and three defensive touchdowns.
While the Steelers faced some initial criticism for their decision to trade for Fitzpatrick, former Steelers Hall of Fame coach and current CBS Sports NFL analyst Bill Cowher was a fan from the onset.
"Football is the total team game," Cowher said during an appearance on CBS Sports HQ. "When you look at it from that standpoint, I actually do like what they did in going out and getting Minkah Fitzpatrick, because what they've done now is they've kind of shored up their defense and filled a little bit of the void they had at safety. ... He's young, he has multiple years on his contract. He gives you a lot of versatility from the standout of that he can play a lot of different positions and lot of different roles."
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While Fitzpatrick will remain in Pittsburgh through the 2022 season, two-time All-Pro outside linebacker T.J. Watt is entering the final year of his rookie contract. The league's leader in sacks in 2020, Watt will make $10.1 million this season as part of his fifth-year option.
With the offseason departure of Bud Dupree, look for the Steelers to select an outside linebacker to help complement Watt during the draft. The Steelers are also expected to address the running back, offensive line, inside linebacker and defensive back positions during the draft.