If you’re a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, Monday broke your Internet as a wave of emotions sent you on a rollercoaster low (with Ben Roethlisberger announcing season-ending surgery) to a major Kennywood Steel Curtain high (the team made a big trade).
That record-setting high came with an almost unprecedented move where Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert sent the team’s 2020 first round draft pick (and a few more swaps of selections) to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick.
The move instantly upgrades what has been a woeful Steelers defensive backfield featuring either a less than 100% Sean Davis, or his replacement, a first-year NFL player and AAF castoff in Kameron Kelly.
— Zac Celedonia (@ZeFlashNFL) September 17, 2019
No one, and I mean no one thought that the Steelers would pull off an obvious move that’s a perfect fit for their team, but on Tuesday morning, here we are evaluating what just went down.
In essence, we love this move on so many levels. Here are several reasons that the Fitzpatrick move makes sense: and for the naysayers, we also have you covered with the potential negatives of the trade as well.
Positive: Fitzpatrick is a young, elite player
The 11th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Minkah Fitzpatrick is a top ten, and arguably a top five, player from his draft class.
Add that he fills a position of need for the Steelers and you can see the instant fit on the depth chart.
Positive: Blue Chipper
Fitzpatrick is a cornerstone player… a blue chipper, if you will, who fit the Steelers standard like a round peg in a round hole.
He should become an instant favorite in the Steel City.
Positive: Salary Cap Implications
There are none.
Fitzpatrick was a first-round pick for the Dolphins last year, which means Miami already took on the brunt of his first-year rookie bonus. In reality, the Dolphins actually lose money on this trade this year, while the Steelers can no look ahead at life beyond Sean Davis, who is in a contract year.
That’s because Fitzpatrick is under contract with his rookie deal for at least the next three seasons with a fifth-year option possibility on the books due to being a first-round selection as well.
Minkah Fitzpatrick brings salaries of $1.08M, $1.975M, & $2.7M (plus a 5th-year option in 2022) to the #Steelers.
— Spotrac (@spotrac) September 17, 2019
There are a lot of mouths to feed in the very near future and now the Steelers can kick that can down the road with Fitzpatrick, as he potentially replaces/upgrades a starter (Davis) and for a longer period of time.
Positive: Locker Room Leader
“He’s the best leader I’ve ever coached.” - Nick Saban about @minkfitz_21
This is who we got. This is not the #Steelers team that suffered through antics of an Antonio Brown, LeVeon Bell or countless others.
— Travis Gunn (@ItsTravisGunn) September 17, 2019
What else needs said? Plenty!!
2x CFB National Champion
2x Consensus All-American
2x 1st-team All-SEC
Chuck Bednarik Award Winner
Jim Thorpe Award Winner
All-Time #Alabama leader in Pick-6's.
9 career college INT's
22 years young.
— Darth Blount 47 (@DarthBlount47) September 17, 2019
The Steelers dumped their off-field drama during the offseason, trading it for "Shutting Out The Noise" in 2019. This is just one of many moves in that same direction, adding a proven player who brings zero baggage to their team.
Negative: No 2020 1st Round Pick
This is one negative, obviously, as the Steelers value their draft picks to the brink of being featured on A&E's Hoarders.
However, Minkah becomes your first round pick... and you get him now.
As noted above the Steelers only lost one year on Fitzpatrick's contract; and they saved money in the process that would otherwise be spent on next year's first round pick, which could be a player who must be developed and can't start right away.
And there's always the possibility that player is a "bust" too.
Maybe this isn't so negative after all?
Positive: They moved up in other rounds
As part of the trade, several other selections were swapped.
Full terms of the Minkah Fitzpatrick trade:
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 17, 2019
Essentially the trade breaks down as follows:
- Steelers swap their 2020 1st round pick for Fitzpatrick
- Steelers move up in the 4th round for their 5th rounder in 2020
- Steelers move back from the 6th to the 7th round in 2021
That could look really good if...
Positive: What if the Steelers are good?
This was something already posed on Twitter shortly after the trade:
Gotta think the #Steelers losing Big Ben factored into the Dolphins decision.
They’re banking on Pittsburgh losing a lot and having a high pick.
Steelers are all-in on themselves to make that a sucker bet.
— Joe Kuzma (SCU & DisContent) (@joe_kuzma) September 17, 2019
A lot of folks are thinking the Steelers season, only two games young, is already over. Translation: they think the Steelers are going to suck this year.
This trade screams the opposite. The Steelers are betting they'll stay the course and remain competitive even without Ben Roethlisberger. The more games they win, the less value their picks are going to carry. The traded selections will be later in each round
With the Dolphins all but tanking their season, it appears the picks Pittsburgh is getting in return will be much higher than the ones they're giving up.
Positive: A vote of confidence for Mason Rudolph
If the Steelers were on the fence about making this trade with a healthy Ben Roethlisberger, then they may have been pushed over the edge when they learned their franchise quarterback was undergoing season-ending surgery and the future would be placed in the hands of second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph.
It's no secret that the Steelers are high on Rudolph: some even speculated that the team considering using their first round pick in 2018 to take him. As fate would have it, five other passers were picked in the first round of last year's draft, and with no other teams desperately needing a QB, Rudolph dropped into the Steelers lap in the third round.
After winning the backup job over last year's incumbent Joshua Dobbs, Rudolph appeared to be on the fast track to developing into Big Ben's heir: with Roethlisberger going on IR, that future becomes realized now.
The move for Fitzpatrick doesn't help the offense, necessarily, but it patches an obvious hole in a defense that can rise to be a top five unit. That philosophy has worked in the past, guiding a young, and often erratic Ben Roethlisberger to Super Bowl stardom.
Only time will tell if the same will occur for Mason Rudolph, but we can say that, as of now, this trade trends in the right direction.
Negative: What if Rudolph isn't good?
That's the only gamble in this entire equation, of which, isn't really a risk.
Waiting in the wings for 2020, should Mason Rudolph struggle and not be the heir to Big Ben that we all thought he'd be, is...
Roethlisberger has already made it known that he wishes to fulfill the contract he signed this offseason, which keeps him with the Steelers for two more seasons beyond 2019.
That gives the Steelers, with or without a first round pick, plenty of time to figure out a contingency plan.
On the flip side, we all know the Dolphins are going to be eyeballing one of the top quarterbacks in next year's draft, loading up on picks to overhaul their team. There's absolutely no guarantee of how high the Steelers pick would end up, and regardless, they still may not be in the market for that position anyway based on the players they feel will declare for the 2020 NFL Draft.
In other words, they already calculated the risks and are betting heavily on Rudolph and Fitzpatrick.