When the Pittsburgh Steelers acquired free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick from the Miami Dolphins late Monday night, Keith Butler’s job as defensive coordinator instantly got easier.
It would be an understatement to say Butler was overjoyed when he learned the Steelers would be acquiring the No. 11 overall pick from the 2018 draft.
And when asked what went through his mind upon hearing news of the trade, Butler didn’t hesitate with a response.
“That’s what went through my mind, that’s exactly what went through my mind,” Butler said Thursday after practice at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. “I’m glad we got him. We needed him. Watching him practice … that dude can move.”
Fitzpatrick will replace the injured Sean Davis at free safety Sunday when the Steelers try to halt their 0-2 skid at San Francisco. Kameron Kelly, who had been subbing for Davis, will resume his backup role.
Butler hopes Fitzpatrick’s arrival coincides with a turnaround for the NFL’s 29th-ranked defense. Only three teams have allowed more passing yards than the Steelers, who have given up 320 per game in losses to New England and Seattle.
“He’s going to help us,” Butler said. “Is he going to help us Sunday? We’ll see. We want to make sure he’s comfortable in what we have planned and (if) he’s not going to have to do a lot of thinking and stuff like that, then he can help us.”
Fitzpatrick played half a dozen positions with the Dolphins, and the Steelers envision him matching up at various spots in the defense, including slot corner where he excelled in his 18 games with the Dolphins. For now, though, he’ll play strictly free safety.
“We hope he can (move around) as soon as possible,” Butler said. “With that type of player, you want to play him, you don’t want to keep him on the sideline and watch with you. We have to be careful in what we are doing and give him a chance to be successful.”
Cornerback Joe Haden faced a similar transition when he joined the Steelers about a week before the 2017 season opener. Haden, though, was an established veteran and entrenched at his position.
“It’s getting the grip of the playbook,” Haden said when asked what the biggest adjustment will be for Fitzpatrick. “He’s the starting free safety for the Steelers, so it’s all of the calls and checks that we have to get up to speed. It shows a lot about his football smarts how he was able to come in and be the free safety the day he arrived and do it pretty fluidly.”
Because of a shoulder injury, Haden hasn’t practiced yet with Fitzpatrick, but he’s liked what he has observed from the sideline.
“He hasn’t messed up any calls,” Haden said. “I can’t wait to see him make plays.”