The Pittsburgh Steelers’ decision to make the trade for Miami Dolphins defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick said a lot of things. For one thing, it probably said that the torn labrum suffered by safety Sean Davis is expected to sideline for at least a bit. But there is a much more significant message being sent than that.
That message is, we’re not throwing in the towel just because our franchise quarterback went down. The Steelers placed Ben Roethlisberger on the Reserve/Injured List yesterday, but they have Mason Rudolph now under center, and they traded up in the third round last year to draft him for moments like this.
They’re going to move forward with Rudolph and they’re going to do everything in their power to win as many games in 2019 as they are capable of doing, regardless of what the end results might show for that effort. They saw him as a first-round talent, and a potential future starter. They believe he can do this.
Trading away a first-round draft pick, even for a first-round talent such as Fitzpatrick, is what that is confirming. Trading away Joshua Dobbs the week before that was another clear endorsement of their long-term belief in what Rudolph is and can be in the future.
Now they get the opportunity to find out just how far along he is already. He showed pretty well for himself on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks in making his NFL debut in a relief appearance for Roethlisberger, playing the entire second half of that game.
He completed 12 of 18 passes that were not dropped for 112 yards and two touchdowns. He had just five drives in total, but the offense scored on three of them, including a 75-yard effort that culminated in his first-career touchdown pass, an eight-yard inside screen to tight end Vance McDonald.
The thing about the Fitzpatrick move, however, is that it’s obviously more than a short-term investment. They’re getting a high first-round draft pick 18 games into his career, so they basically have the ability to control him for a little but under four years, obviously with the potential to continue their relationship with him beyond that. And in the process, they find their Sean Davis replacement earlier than they absolutely needed to. Or did they? With Davis’ labrum injury, who knows.
But the bottom line through everything that went down yesterday is this: the Steelers are still going for it in 2019. They’re not packing their bags and planning for next year, when they expect to have Roethlisberger back. Whatever happens this year, it won’t be the result of them not trying.