Former Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu did the media rounds while in Las Vegas for Super Bowl LVIII, and during an interview with former NFL wide receiver Brice Butler for Sports Illustrated, Polamalu was asked to talk about what makes Fitzpatrick one of the best safeties in football. While Polamalu said he doesn’t consider himself to be one of the best safeties in football, he said he’d put Ed Reed and Minkah Fitzpatrick in that category due to their ability to force turnovers.
“I don’t think that,” Polamalu said about himself being one of the best safeties to play. “I always put Ed [Reed] in that category, and the reason I put Ed in that category is the same reason why I’d put Minkah. They get the ball. These guys get the ball. Hits are really important, they’re a big part of the game, absolutely, but man, it’s really all about that ball. It’s something that I think Minkah does a really great job of. He’s obviously shown to be one of the best in the league, if not the best in the league, over the last decade. So to me, that’s really what this game is about, is getting that ball, and Minkah does a great job of doing that,” Polamalu said.
While Fitzpatrick didn’t register an interception in an injury-plagued 2023 season, he does have 19 career interceptions through his first seven years in the league. With the Steelers, he registered five interceptions after being acquired during the 2019 season, four interceptions in the 2020 season, and six interceptions in 2022. He’s shown to be a ballhawk throughout his career, much like Reed was during his Hall of Fame career with the Ravens.
Polamalu is discrediting himself a little bit in regards to not being one of the best safeties in the league, as he was also quite adept at forcing turnovers with two seasons with seven interceptions and another season with five interceptions, totaling 32 in his career. Reed was more of a ball-hawking safety, while Polamalu was better downhill. Reed had seven or more interceptions five seasons in his career and finished with 64. Fitzpatrick isn’t close to Reed’s interception total through seven seasons, as Reed had 43 through his first seven years, but Fitzpatrick is still naturally gifted at making plays on the ball.
Ironically, Fitzpatrick compared his play style more to Polamalu’s last season, and he does have some of Polamalu’s ability getting downhill. He’s not as good as Polamalu was, but he’s a quality tackler who makes plays when he has to in the run game.
While Fitzpatrick isn’t quite on Reed’s level yet, to hear Polamalu give him similar praise is interesting and nice to see. Polamalu has obviously seen a lot of Reed’s game from lining up on the opposite sideline as him, and Fitzpatrick does bring a lot of the same qualities when it comes to attacking the ball in the air, reading the quarterback, and making plays. He helped the Steelers lead the NFL in interceptions in 2022, and I have little doubt that he’s going to continue to rack up picks throughout his career, even after being shut out in 2023.
Watch the full interview below.