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Heyward Says He Appreciated Front Office For Making Fitzpatrick Trade: ‘Weren’t Throwing Away The Season’

Hope looked bleak after Week 2 of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2019 season. Not only were the Steelers sitting with a big goose egg in the win column, they were without Ben Roethlisberger for the rest of the year. Roethlisberger took his final snaps of the season in the second week of the season, blowing out his elbow in a loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Replacing him was Mason Rudolph and eventually, the man they called Duck Hodges.

In the eyes of many, and it was a reasonable stance, the Steelers’ season was over. Just ask Tom Moore how he feels about playing with your backup quarterback. But Pittsburgh wasn’t giving up, making the surprisingly aggressive move to trade for Miami Dolphins’ safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, sending a first-round pick in the process. It was the first time the Steelers traded away and were without a first-round pick since 1967. But it was a trade that paid off with Fitzpatrick turning into a superstar, all for the cost of what ended up being the 18th overall pick.

The trade had more meaning than you might think. Appearing on the 3 And Out podcast hosted by John Middlekauff, Cam Heyward said the trade was more than adding a player. It was sending a message to the organization that they weren’t giving up.

“I’ve talked to Kevin Colbert about this many times,” Heyward told the show via The Volume’s YouTube channel. “When he did that trade for Minkah, it solidified that we weren’t throwing away the season.”

Pittsburgh turned the year around. From 1-4, they rallied back to win four in a row and seven of their next eight despite a revolving door of underexperienced and overwhelmed quarterbacks. They did so on the backs of an elite-level defense, led in part by Fitzpatrick. In his first game with the team in Week 3, with Heyward admitting Fitzpatrick didn’t even know most of the playbook, Fitzpatrick posted five tackles, a forced fumble, pass breakup, interception, and QB hit. Since 2014, he’s one of just eight DBs to have such a stat line and he did it about six days into his Steelers’ career.

Heyward said he made sure to show his gratitude before the game was even over.

“I went to Kevin in the middle of the game. I was like, ‘I appreciate you doing that. We needed that.'”

Fitzpatrick wasn’t done there. He finished the year tied for the team lead with five interceptions and was named All-Pro at just 23 years old. At one point, Pittsburgh sported an 8-5 record, but stumbled down the stretch, losing their last three games, two by one possession, to end the year 8-8 and miss the playoffs. Still, it was an incredible turnaround.

“When you have a guy like Minkah man, he gives you an opportunity. We had a lot of good players and we knew Ben was hurt and out for the season, but man, we were not ready to throw away the season. It kind of gave us the confidence like, ‘we don’t care who’s at quarterback. We’ll still compete.'”

Of course, that was a trade that wasn’t just made in a vacuum for the 2019 season as some sort of morale boost. Roethlisberger or not, good team or not, the Steelers would’ve made that deal every single time. Fitzpatrick was in his second year in the league, 23 years old, and Pittsburgh knew how to maximize his skillset. They’ve been reaping the benefits year after year with Fitzpatrick now one of the league’s best free safeties and officially its highest-paid. It’s one of the shrewdest deals Colbert’s pulled off. The Steelers got better in the present and the future and the players got a boost of encouragement to keep fighting. A deal for the ages.

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