The Pittsburgh Steelers are entering the 2020 NFL Draft without a first-round pick, the first time that that has happened for a draft in over 50 years. Was it worth it? It’s hard to say no. just a few months into the deal that they made that sent that pick away, they were able to get a first-team All-Pro free safety just 18 games into his career.
That would be Minkah Fitzpatrick, who intercepted five passes fairly early on during his tenure with the team before opponents basically stopped throwing the ball in his direction. He wasn’t just a ballhawk, however, but just an all-around strong defender in all phases.
He went on to be voted into the Pro Bowl, and then received first-team All-Pro honors as well, from both the AP and the PFWA. He was the 11th-overall pick by the Miami Dolphins out of Alabama in the 2018 NFL Draft, and the Steelers got him for the price of the 18th-overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and 18 games of his career.
Despite the season being written off as ‘lost’ after Ben Roethlisberger went down in Week Two, Kevin Colbert pulled the trigger anyway, and after losing his first game, the team went on to win seven of the next eight, throwing their hat into the ring for the postseason before the offense completely stalled in the final three weeks, finishing 8-8.
All told, it worked out to being the fourth-most impactful trade in the 2019 season, according to ESPN, ranked behind only the Seattle Seahawks’ addition of Jadeveon Clowney, the Baltimore Ravens getting Marcus Peters (whom they’ve already extended), and of course the Tennessee Titans trading for Ryan Tannehill. On Fitzpatrick:
Fitzpatrick will be a core piece for the Steelers for years to come, but my concerns about the trade when it was initially made still stick. As good as Fitzpatrick was, the argument that the Steelers could still make the playoffs in 2019 after their 0-2 start because they had a quarterback to build around in Mason Rudolph was more hopeful than logical. While the Steelers had plenty of injuries around their quarterbacks, Rudolph was benched after subpar play for Devlin Hodges and suffered two of his own injuries. The Steelers will send the 18th pick to Miami in this trade, and that would have likely been their best shot at drafting the sort of quarterback they’ll want to have on the roster when Ben Roethlisberger either declines or retires. If the Steelers had made the playoffs, I would have pushed this trade into the top three. As is, it falls just short.
Feel free to debate that logic, because I’m not sure which franchise quarterback is going to be available at 18, nor do I think the Steelers would have even tried to draft one right now if he was there, unless they got bad news about Roethlisberger between now and then.