A chain reaction of events had to occur in order to get Minkah Fitzpatrick to the Pittsburgh Steelers, some of which I’m probably not even considering, but it constituted three primary conditions: 1) to make him available for trade; 2) to give the Steelers a need for him; and 3) to put them in a position to be a desirable trade target.
All three of these conditions were met. First and foremost, the Miami Dolphins began a rebuilding process that is not set to begin until 2020, as they angle for the first-overall pick in next year’s draft. a number of Dolphins players, not wanting to participate in a tanking season, requested to be traded. Fitzpatrick was the first.
And so, just a game or two into the season, he was made available at his own request. Despite the fact that they had just drafted him 18 games ago with the 11th-overall pick, Miami thought they could get a better return for him while helping to raise their own draft pick.
Then Sean Davis was injured, and suddenly the Steelers needed a starting safety. This prompted the front office to go out of character and aggressively pursue the trade. With Ben Roethlisberger being lost for the season, the Dolphins viewed the Steelers’ prospects of succeeding in 2019 as the bleakest of the group, and opted to do business with them, believing that they would return the highest first-round pick.
That’s how Fitzpatrick got to Pittsburgh. And he’s happy it happened that way. “It’s a business decision”, he told reporters yesterday in recalling how everything went down, via Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Other people made business decisions prior to mine”, he pointed out.
Among the reasons that he wanted to leave was because he also wasn’t happy with how the defensive coaches intended to use him. While he was open to being moved around a bit, they were asking him to learn just about every position short of the defensive line and edge rusher.
So he welcomed the change coming to Pittsburgh and having the opportunity to limit his focus, at least early on, to just playing free safety and growing in the basics of the new defense. Now coming out of the bye, though, his role will be expanding incrementally, and more varied assignments will be coming his way.
“You don’t just learn one position. You got to learn what’s going on all around you, especially that safety or nickel”, he said. “The way the game is played, you have to know what’s going on. If you want to make plays and play very well, you have to know what’s going on around you”.
Considering the short amount of time he has had to digest the defense, Fitzpatrick’s play has been very much above the line. It hasn’t been without error, but he has learned with each passing week, and has been able to play at full speed, making plays as he did so.