Hall of Fame executive Gil Brandt says that the Steelers should make T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick "Steelers for life."
Fitzpatrick's stat line last season was all-pro worthy. The Steelers safety had five interceptions, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, and two touchdowns.
Before he got here, the Steelers defense gave up 30.5 points per game in its first two contests. Small sample size, but even still, that’s not good.
After Minkah's arrival, the Steelers allowed an average of 17.2 points per game.
In the first two games, the Steelers gave up 336.5 passing yards per game. The Steelers season average saw the defense give up 194 passing yards per contest.
Meanwhile in 2018, prior to Fitzpatrick's arrival, the Steelers gave up 231 passing yards per game.
His impact was tangible and I’d imagine he will only get better.
Fitzpatrick has pedigree. He was the 11th pick in the draft. He was recruited and played three years at Alabama. Pro Football Focus had him graded as the best slot corner in the league his first year with Miami.
Pedigree matters. He’s not just a flash in the pan. Assuming that the Steelers pick up his fifth year option, he's very affordable for the next three years.
I don’t care what position a player plays so long as he’s got an impact as a playmaker. That’s what the Steelers have been lacking in the secondary since Troy Polamalu left. No longer.
As for Watt, he’s racked up 34.5 sacks in his first three NFL seasons. He's on a hall of fame pace.
Bruce Smith, the NFL’s all-time leader in sacks, had 33.5 sacks in his first three years. Lawrence Taylor combined for 28 in his first FOUR seasons.
In the middle of his hall of fame career Kevin Greene had three seasons with the Steelers. He had 35.5 sacks over that span.
How about modern players? Over his first three years, Von Miller had exactly half a sack more than Watt. J.J. Watt had 36.5 sacks. Khalil Mack had 30.
T.J Watt's statistics compare favorably to a lot of hall of fame or likely hall of fame players. I’ve guaranteed it already on my show: T.J. Watt will have a bust in Canton one day.
The issue is going to be the price tag. It's important to note that the salary cap is going to get a boost because of the new CBA, maybe not next year dude to Covid-19, but in the years that follow. Also, Ben Roethlisberger's massive contract will be coming off the books in the near future.
Gil Brandt is right. The Steelers should do what they can to keep these guys around. What they’ve done is special and they both project to keep being great for years to come.