The Pittsburgh Steelers were determined to come out of the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft with either a top inside linebacker or a top safety. They missed out on the inside linebackers—ultimately making a bold move the following year to get their guy in Devin Bush—but roughly 10 months later, they now have two top safeties from that draft class.
And they can’t wait to get them together.
The Steelers ended up using their first-round pick, the 28th overall, on Terrell Edmunds, the underclassman out of Virginia Tech. He was the third safety taken off the board, behind Derwin James going to the Los Angeles Chargers at 17 and Minkah Fitzpatrick, the Miami Dolphins taking him 11th overall
On Sunday, Edmunds and Fitzpatrick will be the Steelers’ starting safety tandem. And four at least the next four years, as well. They acquired the latter from the Dolphins yesterday in exchange for a first-round draft pick, and the flipping of some mid- to late-round picks as well.
“It was no secret that we were in the market for a safety when he came out”, head coach Mike Tomlin said of Fitzpatrick yesterday during his pre-game press conference. “I went to Tuscaloosa twice in the draft process. When you get into these circumstances where you’re talking about possibilities, there was a sense of readiness, a sense of knowing among us about his capabilities, his character, his football abilities, and his ability to fit within what we do. All of those boxes had been checked prior to the draft and he’s still very much a young guy”.
Fitzpatrick started 11 of 16 games during his rookie season for the Dolphins, playing all over the field. He recorded 80 tackles with two interceptions and nine passes defensed, returning one of those interceptions for a touchdown. He’ll be the free safety now lining up with Edmunds at strong safety.
“It’s really exciting from our perspective”, Tomlin said. “We were excited about the potential of getting one of the top-notch safeties in that class, and in a short period of time later, we have a tandem from that class, and that’s pretty exciting to think about those guys having an opportunity to play together as soon as this weekend, but big picture to grow together systematically”.
Both of them are under contract through the 2021 season, with fifth-year options for the 2022 season. They have the next two years—30 games, plus any postseason play—to grow together before the team has to worry about making any type of decision on their option year, however.
The focus right now is simply getting them ready to play together on Sunday. They have the talent. Now it’s a matter of coming together as one mind, which is particularly critical at the back end—as we have seen a number of times already this season.