History backs up Steelers trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick as the right move

Minkah Fitzpatrick Miami Dolphins (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
Minkah Fitzpatrick Miami Dolphins (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

The Steelers traded a first-round pick for Minkah Fitzpatrick last season. Here’s why history indicates Pittsburgh did the right thing.

Under the direction of Kevin Colbert over the past twenty years, the Steelers are a team that hasn’t strayed far from the book. Pittsburgh has always been a team that has been known for spending low in free agency and keeping their own players under contract as long as their front office desires.

Prior to moving up to the 10th overall pick last April to draft Devin Bush, Colbert had previously traded up just twice in the first round – in 2003 to land Troy Polamalu and in 2006 to take Santonio Holmes. Both proved to be excellent decisions as Polamalu was a Defensive Player of the Year and first-ballot Hall of Famer, while Holmes was critical in the Steelers Super Bowl win over the Arizona Cardinals.

Last year, Colbert made an incredibly bold move by trading for former first-round safety, Minkah Fitzpatrick. Though it cost Pittsburgh their first-rounder in 2020, the trade has already paid dividends. As further assurance, Marcus Mosher of USA Today’s Raiders Wire recently broke down all of the big trades that involved first-round picks over the past decade and the evidence in the evidence is in the Steelers corner:

Though 17 players have been traded for at least a first-round pick since 2011, the evidence clearly favors trading for the proven commodity. The pick New Orleans received after trading away All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham turned into linebacker Stephone Anthony – a failed pick who hasn’t started more than three games since his rookie season in 2015.

The Dallas Cowboys made out in the same way. They stole Amari Cooper from the Raiders and with the pick they received Las Vegas selected Johnathan Abram. Meanwhile, Frank Clark, a pass-rusher who helped the Chiefs win the Super Bowl this year, was swapped for picks that eventually became L.J. Collier and Damien Lewis.

With the first-round pick the Steelers traded the Miami for Fitzpatrick, the Dolphins took offensive tackle, Austin Jackson. Though it’s far too early to call him a bust, Jackson was just the 87th overall player on my big board this year and struggled with consistency in college.

What we do know is that the Steelers were able to receive a 22-year-old blue-chip safety just over a year after he was drafted. Minkah was the 11th overall pick in 2018 and the Steelers (picking at 28 overall that year) would have had to give up more than a first-round pick to move up that high.

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Minkah Fitzpatrick is on the road to stardom, and it’s reassuring to see that the evidence backs up the move the Steelers made for the young safety. Though first-round draft choices are extremely valuable to NFL teams, Pittsburgh did the right thing by trading for a talented, young player with their pick.