Where would the Pittsburgh Steelers be at this point in the season had Ben Roethlisberger never suffered an elbow injury? I think that’s the question that looms over the first half of the regular season. Roethlisberger was limited to just six quarters, and even through that, he presumably was playing through discomfort and affecting his performance.
Since then, Mason Rudolph has started five games, and Devlin Hodges has started one. Rudolph has gone 3-2, though he did not finish one of the games that they lost, and that was in overtime. Hodges won the one game that he started.
The team is actually 4-2 since Roethlisberger went down, and 4-1 in their past five games, despite sitting at just 4-4 right now overall on the season. The turnaround during that period could perhaps be most attributed to…general manager Kevin Colbert?
At least, that is whom ESPN named the Steelers’ MVP through the first half of the season. Brooke Pryor writes:
The Week 3 move to trade a 2020 first-round pick for Dolphins safety Minkah Fitzpatrick was met with skepticism given the Steelers’ uncertain future at quarterback. But Colbert’s big swing is paying off early: Fitzpatrick has four interceptions, including a 96-yard pick-six against the Colts. The former first-round pick has been a game-changer, and Colbert’s move to trade for him on an inexpensive rookie contract will likely continue to pay off.
Well, it had better continue to pay off, because otherwise it most certainly wouldn’t have been worth a first-round pick. The acquisition of Minkah Fitzpatrick was, obviously, a long-term investment, potentially even a decade-plus down the road.
It is fair to say that Fitzpatrick has played a pivotal role in turning things around, considering that he has been on of the most important defenders for the Steelers since he first stepped on the field, and the defense has been the driving force behind their more recent success.
He has four interceptions on the season in just six games, and that’s more than any Steelers defender has had in a full season since 2010. He also has a forced fumble on top of it, so he has created almost as many takeaways as he has games played in the black and gold.
Another move that Colbert made, which hasn’t been talked about much, was the acquisition of Nick Vannett. While the long-term value is still up in the air since he is in the final year of his rookie contract, bringing him in as the number two tight end when Xavier Grimble went down has proven low-key valuable. Not to mention, he was able to get a fifth-round pick for Joshua Dobbs to boot.