As it becomes increasingly more apparent to us all that we are, in fact, already in ‘offseason’ mode as a blog that covers the Pittsburgh Steelers—since, you know, the team already played its last game of the season a week and a half ago—a though occurred to me.
There will be a meaningful cap in our pre-draft coverage this year due to the fact that the Steelers will not have a first-round draft pick, which they sent to the Miami Dolphins in September. Like it or not, one of the staples of the offseason is disseminating, dissecting, and discussing mock drafts, and the majority of mock drafts are limited to the first round, especially in the early portions of the offseason.
So with Pittsburgh not having a first-round pick this year, there are going to be way fewer mock drafts for us to discuss. This will be a cause to rejoice for some of you, but for others, it will be the opposite. All mock drafts at least generate conversation and the opportunity to exchange ideas. There are probably half a dozen fan-submitted mock drafts in the comment at least in every one of these articles.
But while we won’t have the ample mock drafts to discuss this offseason, there is some peace of mind to be had in knowing that that first-round pick was already well-invested. Because in exchange for that pick, the Steelers got back safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who earned first-team All-Pro honors in his first year in Pittsburgh, playing in 14 games for them following a post-Week Two trade.
Fitzpatrick, a standout out of Alabama, was the 11th-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. He was a prospect that the Steelers highly coveted, but they understood that he would never be within their reach. After they traded for him this past year, Mike Tomlin described the notion of being able to trade him as a ‘pipe dream’.
At this point, two years out, I think it’s fairly safe to say that Fitzpatrick has at least cemented his draft stock at which he was selected that year, if not improved it. And they gave up what turned out to be the 18th-overall pick to the Dolphins to get it. They also flipped some late-round picks over the next two years that gives them an extra fourth and seventh while parting with a fifth and sixth.
One of the most interesting things about Fitzpatrick’s first year in Pittsburgh is how different the first half was from the second. After picking off five passes in his first seven games. He was seemingly hardly around the ball after that, registering only one pass defensed. But that wasn’t his fault. It was because offenses decided it was a bad idea to throw it in his direction.
I’d say that is a first-round pick well-spent, even if they missed out on the first 18 games of his career. But if they get the next 100-plus, that will hardly matter.