THIS IS NOT A DRILL.
Just hours after placing Ben Roethlisberger on season-ending Injured Reserve, the Steelers made an aggressive in-season move to bolster their defensive lineup. During Monday Night’s game between the Browns and Jets, ESPN’s Adam Schefter broke the news on Twitter.
TRADE: Steelers are trading a 2020 first-round pick to the Dolphins for DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, league sources tell ESPN.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 17, 2019
This is the real, blue-check verified Adam Schefter account. This is not a troll. Moments later, NFL Network’s Ian Rappoport confirmed the report and added a few additional details to the trade, which basically involved the Steelers moving up a round in the middle of the 2020 Draft and back a round the end of the 2021 Draft.
Full terms of the Minkah Fitzpatrick trade:
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 17, 2019
What the Steelers are Getting
Minkah Fitzpatrick, a do-it-all defensive back out of Alabama, was the 11th overall pick in the 2018 Draft by the Miami Dolphins. Here at SCB, we had Fitzpatrick rated as the second-best safety prospect in the 2018 Draft, behind only Derwin James. Fitzpatrick was also the 6th overall player on our 2018 Steelers Draft Board. Minkah moved all around Alabama’s defense in college, playing some corner, some free safety, and excelling as a slot corner. His best role is as a true free safety but his athleticism and versatility makes him a capable in coverage against the slot. Through two weeks, the ability to defend the slot has been a glaring hole in the Steelers defense. Additionally, the play in the secondary has been downright dreadful, especially from the safeties. At over 6-feet tall and over 200 pounds, Fitzpatrick is also in the range of elite athletes with the speed to cover all over the field.
The #Steelers traded their 2020 first round pick for Minkah Fitzpatrick. Regardless of where you play him at DB, Minkah posted an elite #RAS with a very good size/speed combo. pic.twitter.com/u2y4Srhmyc
— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) September 17, 2019
In his rookie year, Fitzpatrick had 80 total tackles and 2 interceptions and took one back to the house. In his 3-year career at Alabama, Minkah had 171 tackles, 9 interceptions and scored 4 touchdowns. Fitzpatrick has a nose for the ball and can take it to the house when he gets it in his hands. Even when he doesn’t catch the ball, he can get near it with 24 passes defended in college and 9 last year with the Dolphins.
A Team-Friendly Contract
Being a first round pick, Fitzpatrick is locked in for 3 seasons plus a fifth-year option that the Steelers would have the ability to utilize. Is this worth a first round pick? Considering that Sean Davis is in the last year of his rookie deal and the Steelers did not choose to extend him this off-season, the team was going to be in the market for a free safety in next year’s draft. Consider this the Steelers using their first round pick on a player that will be under contract for the next 3-4 seasons and can contribute both this year and in future years on defense.
Yes, a first round pick is a LOT to give up in today’s NFL. Especially considering the Steelers are off to an 0-2 start with their franchise quarterback on injured reserve. That said, the team drafted Mason Rudolph to be the starter in waiting. Additionally, they are not trading a first round pick for a one-year rental player. They are trading their first round pick for a player that will be an immediate contributor on the 2019 team and be under team control for 2-3 more years after this season. The Steelers are using a future pick to address a current and future need on the defense. This aggressiveness is something that the front office has not typically displayed, but seems to be changing course after the trade up to select Devin Bush in April’s draft and now this move to acquire Minkah Fitzpatrick.