The Steelers gave up their 2020 first-round pick to acquire Dolphins safety, Minkah Fitzpatrick. Here’s why that deal is paying dividends for Pittsburgh.
With Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell no longer part of the picture in Pittsburgh, the Steelers didn’t have a lot of controversies to dispute about early this season. However, that changed when they traded for Miami Dolphins’ safety, Minkah Fitzpatrick.
The Fitzpatrick deal lit a fire under many Steelers fans and caused a split down the middle. On the one hand, there was a group of fans who agreed that something needed to be done at the safety position, and they applauded Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin for pulling the trigger.
On the other hand, many fans were upset about the idea of parting with a 2020 first-round draft choice that could prove to be very valuable this year.
I myself had some skepticism about this trade, and I have walked both lines. When the Steelers are doing well, it’s easy to say that Pittsburgh did the right thing by trading for Fitzpatrick. When they aren’t, it’s not hard to say we wish we had our first-round pick back.
No matter what side of the fence you are on, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: Minkah Fitzpatrick is proving to be worth his weight in gold.
The second-year safety and former 11th overall pick from the 2018 draft has already exceeded expectations in Pittsburgh. Here’s how the Steelers have fared since he joined the squad in week 3:
#Steelers before Minkah Fitzpatrick:
30.5 ppg allowed
0.5 takeaways per game
Steelers with Minkah Fitzpatrick:
16.8 ppg allowed
3.0 takeaways per game#SteelersNation
— Tommy Jaggi (@TommyJaggi) October 29, 2019
Though there are a lot of factors that come into play here (strength of schedule, small sample size, opposing quarterbacks, etc.), there is no denying the difference Minkah has made on this defense. In addition to improving in nearly every statistical category, Fitzpatrick has personally assisted in taking the ball away 4 times in his first 5 starts with the Steelers (3 interceptions and a forced fumble).
The whole defensive mentally seemed to change after he joined the team, and the Steelers are playing with a rejuvenated sense of confidence. Fitzpatrick has been so good, in fact, that you could make the case that he has been the most important defensive player on the team outside of T.J. Watt.
I admit that I wasn’t sold on the Minkah trade at first. But the more he plays, the more we come to see that the Steelers knew what they were doing here. Fitzpatrick clearly has the best ball skills of any defender in Pittsburgh, and he takes advantage of every opportunity to create turnovers. His fluid hips, consistent coverage, and football instincts will make him a force on this defense for years to come.
While we don’t exactly know what the future holds for Minkah or who the Steelers may have been able to land with their first-round pick in the 2020 draft, I think we can all agree that Fitzpatrick has been worth his price tag so far. Let’s hope he continues this progression towards stardom.