Never before have the Pittsburgh Steelers given up so much in draft capital—a first-round draft pick—in exchange for a single player over the course of the past 50 years than they did last week for former Miami Dolphins safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.
The price they were willing to pay was borne partly out of necessity, presented in the form of a torn labrum that starting free safety Sean Davis suffered in the second week of the season. He was placed on the Reserve/Injured List, and Fitzpatrick stepped into the starting lineup on Sunday.
He recorded an interception and forced a fumble as a way to introduce himself to the black and gold—even if the gam was played in San Francisco—and while his game was far from flawless, he has clearly already ingratiated himself to his new teammates.
“He came in right away with open ears”, veteran defensive end Stephon Tuitt said of his newest defensive teammate. “I think a lot of guys rallied around him, helped him. I think he was out there telling some of the guys what to do. I think he’s a smart player, and I’m really glad to have him on our team”.
The last time, if ever, that the Steelers have ever asked so much, so quickly, from one single player was probably in the era before Chuck Noll. The team doesn’t make it a habit of acquiring players after the season has already begun, and even their August signings tend to have a bit of a learning curve, though Joe Haden certainly comes close.
In Haden’s case, however, he was already a long-time established veteran, a decorated Pro Bowler, moving to a team that he had been playing twice a year since he entered the league, so asking him to start in about two weeks from his acquisition wasn’t half as significant as Fitzpatrick coming in on a Tuesday and starting on Sunday.
A big piece of his ability to transition as well as he has so far has been the willingness, even eagerness, of the locker room accepting him and doing everything they could to bring him up to speed and make sure he was ready to help them on the field. I believe it was Ramon Foster on his radio show on Monday who said he was already thanking Kevin Colbert for getting that deal done.
Fitzpatrick is young, but he is also a very intelligent player, so it’s not a shock to see that he was able to do as well as he did on such short notice. Now it’s just about incremental growth on a weekly basis.