The Miami Dolphins had just lost their second game to start the season and appeared to be well on their way to successfully tanking their 2019 season to maximize their draft compensation for 2020. The Pittsburgh Steelers had just suffered their second loss in a row, and had confirmed that their quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, would miss the remainder of the season. His replacement had thrown 19 passes in his career—all in the game Roethlisberger left following the first half.
Reportedly, that was the tie-breaker for the Dolphins’ front office. According to The Fan, Dolphins beat writer Armando Salguero, all of the teams who had ultimately contacted them regarding interest in acquiring Minkah Fitzpatrick, their second-year safety whom they drafted in the first round a year ago, had been willing to offer up a first-round pick as part of a package for acquiring them.
But they believed the Steelers had the potential to place the worst during the 2019 season, and thus offer the highest reward in draft compensation. While no other specific teams were mentioned (at least by Salguero), it’s a perhaps not entirely unreasonable gamble, given that they have already lost two games and have a quarterback with minimal experience moving forward.
Of course, the Steelers have every intention of surrendering the 32nd-overall pick if possible by winning the Super Bowl this year, Roethlisberger or no. Mason Rudolph is untested and unproven, but the team has resolved that their expectations have not changed for 2019 simply because they no longer have their franchise quarterback under center.
Their odds of achieving that goal are greatly diminished, but I still believe that this is a team that is capable of reaching the postseason, provided that they show the necessary growth on both sides of the ball over the course of the season to merit that.
Historically, Mike Tomlin’s teams have had a tendency to play better football—or at least win more games—as the calendar ticks forward. 2018 was an aberration in that respect, as they lost four of their final six games. Ordinarily, they end the year on an extended winning streak heading into the postseason.
In order to work toward that end, the coaches have to be better, certainly. But the personnel on the field must improve, as well. Rookie linebacker Devin Bush is struggling right now. Donte Moncrief is floundering, while James Washington is still looking for increased opportunities.
I can go on in discussing who needs to step up and where, but you probably know the list by now. Outside of perhaps the offensive and defensive lines, there is plenty of room from the top of the roster to the bottom for needed improvement.
Sticking it to the Dolphins for thinking they would get the best pick, however, is absolutely not on their minds. The goal is always to have the worst draft pick possible every year, because it means that you finished at the top the year before.