The biggest moment for the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 2019 season didn’t happen during a game—okay, the second-biggest moment, after Ben Roethlisberger’s injury. But that other big moment followed right after, and it was when the team sent a first-round pick to the Miami Dolphins after that Week Two game to acquired Minkah Fitzpatrick as their new, plug-and-play starting free safety.
I’m sure you’ve seen his stat line enough times by now to know the general idea of what he meant to the team and why expectations are so high for him within this defense going forward, so I’m not going to repeat all of that right now. But I am going to share Cameron Heyward’s own enthusiasm about his young teammate.
“Man, when I first saw it, I was like, ‘okay, we gave up a first-round pick. I don’t know what to expect’”, he said of when the trade first went down, speaking on The Lefkoe Show podcast. “But from the San Francisco game on, dude was just racking up turnovers. The fact that he came in I think on like a Tuesday and literally threw him out the next game”, however, and immediately produced, let him know he was for real.
“And his communication is just, it’s underrated”, he added. “I think a lot of people don’t understand how much he loves this game and how much he studies, because he was already in-tune with us in a matter of a couple days”.
The Steelers giving up a first-round pick for Fitzpatrick was a big deal, even though he was a former 11th-overall pick who was heading into just his second season. He still had a lot to prove, but he ended up doing it in a Pittsburgh jersey.
Then the Seattle Seahawks got two first-round picks for Jamal Adams, and Heyward couldn’t help but smile about that. “I’m glad you can’t go back on trades right now, because I think we really stuck it to ‘em when we got him for just one first-round pick”, he said.
“He’s been very vital to our defense, keeping the top end on things. And it’s one thing to just be a safety that keeps the top end on it. But when you’re running the other way with the ball and you’re getting touchdowns, that’s icing on the cake”, the defensive captain continued in speaking about Fitzpatrick. “We have a great safety in Minkah who’s gonna be a Pittsburgh Steeler for a long time”.
Following the 2020 season, the Steelers will have to pick up Fitzpatrick’s 2022 fifth-year option, which under the rules of the new CBA, will be fully guaranteed, not just for injury, upon signing, but it will allow them to control his rights for another two years. Then they can worry about making sure he stays with the team for the long term, but of course they didn’t give up a first-rounder thinking he wasn’t going to sign another deal down the road.