After becoming the highest-paid safety in the NFL, Minkah Fitzpatrick understands he now has to live up to his lofty new contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The 25-year-old told reporters what the new deal means to him Thursday:
"They're trusting you to be the best and prepare to be the best and compete against the best and play A++ on a consistent basis. It's more of that, that I'm trying hold myself to, rather than say, 'I got paid, so now I've got to play well.' It's no, these guys trust me with this amount of money, this amount of responsibility, so now it's my duty to go out there and play at a high level and show them that I deserve this compensation."
Fitzpatrick agreed to a four-year extension worth more than $18.4 million per year with $36 million guaranteed, via ESPN's Adam Schefter.
The average annual salary topped the previous record for a safety set by Jamal Adams and the Seattle Seahawks last August. The Minnesota Vikings' Harrison Smith and the Denver Broncos' Justin Simmons are the only other safeties averaging at least $15 million per year, via Spotrac.
It puts a lot of faith in Fitzpatrick, who has proven himself as one of the best all-around defenders in the NFL in recent years.
The 2018 first-round pick set a career high with 124 tackles last season, leading the Steelers, while adding two interceptions and one forced fumbles. He was named first-team All-Pro in each of the previous two years, tallying nine interceptions and three defensive touchdowns in 2019-20.
Pittsburgh's defense disappointed last year considering the talent—ranking 20th in points allowed on the way to a 9-7-1 record—but the unit ranked in the top five in scoring in both 2019 and 2020.
If Fitzpatrick, T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward and others play to expectations, the Steelers could be dangerous in 2022.