The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Newcomer Minkah Fitzpatrick will make an immediate impact on defense.
Explanation: Minkah Fitzpatrick is immediately one of the most talented players on the Steelers’ roster on either side of the ball. The 11th-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Pittsburgh just acquired him for, roughly, the cost of the first-round pick, and will be counted upon to be a plug-and-play starter at free safety with Sean Davis having gone down with a torn labrum.
Depending upon how you define impact, he should be able to make one on Sunday. He has the capability of being a high-volume tackler, for one thing. He has 22 stops recorded in his career already, and that was while playing all over the field for most of last season.
He’s also capable of taking the ball away with his range and instincts. The Steelers arguably have not had this sort of range at free safety since…I don’t know when. Davis didn’t have it. Mike Mitchell didn’t have it. Ryan Clark didn’t, either. Darren Perry?
One thing that has been consistently said of him is that he is an intelligent, high football-IQ individual. He may be adjusting to a new scheme on the fly, but he has the background to do just that, and limiting him in what they ask him to do will allow him to play without overthinking, thus putting him in a better position to make an impact.
Fitzpatrick does have a forced fumble this year in two games while he was still with the Miami Dolphins, but it’s hard to say he was overly impactful overall. And now he is learning a new defense in less than a week’s time.
Not just a new defense, but a new defense in a new city from new coaches and new players around him. The only one who’ll be on the field that he’s familiar with really is Terrell Edmunds, with whom he worked out before the Combine last year.
Fitzpatrick might turn out to be a real dynamic player, but it’s going to take time before he’s comfortable and plays like it. It’s rare for the Steelers to have anybody make much of an impact in their first season, whether draft picks or free agents, and trades made late in the process have been particularly lacking production.