There may not be too many things more satisfying than a trade that many were skeptical of very much going your way. The early returns on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick are suggesting that it could be heading that way. The move was widely criticized initially, in part because of the timing for the team relative to Ben Roethlisberger’s injury, but he is one of the primary reasons that they are in playoff position right now.
And on Sunday, they face the former coach of the Miami Dolphins who was responsible for drafting him, Adam Gase, who is in his first season with the New York Jets. In preparation for the Steelers coming to town, he discussed Pittsburgh through a number of storylines, including Fitzpatrick.
“He’s playing a different spot” than what he had been for most of his time he was with the Dolphins, Gase said. “He’s playing the spot he was drafted for”. The free safety spent most of his time in the slot as a rookie. Reportedly, he was upset with the new coaching staff in 2019, who wanted to move him around even more.
“We had a lot of injuries, so he had to play nickel and corner, never got to post safety until the end of the year”, Gase went on. “They have him in the post, allow him to be aggressive, and he’s done that. The ball finds him”.
The second-year safety was voted into the Pro Bowl this year as one of five Steelers, and three members of the defense, joined by T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward. He has recorded five interceptions, tied for the third-most in the NFL, forced a fumble, and recovered two, scoring two defensive touchdowns in the process.
Since his acquisition in Week Three, the Steelers’ secondary has been among the most efficient, especially in terms of limiting big plays. Many opposing offenses don’t really tend to test out his zone too often, truth be told.
Pittsburgh was reportedly one of five teams who were willing to give up a first-round pick in exchange for Fitzpatrick, who was taken 11th overall out of Alabama in the 2018 NFL Draft. The Dolphins chose the Steelers, believing that they would return the best draft capital.
Without him it’s fair to wonder if the Steelers would even be competing as a longshot for playoff contention right now, however. His acquisition has greatly boosted their odds of reaching the postseason, and thus significantly hurt what the Dolphins should expect to be getting in return—though it’s still, of course, a first-round draft pick.