We’re continuing our series on Kevin Colbert’s best and worst trades with one that may have been his boldest and also may have been his best. When Minkah Fitzpatrick requested a trade out of Miami, the Steelers had interest in the second-year DB but with Ben Roethlisberger going down with a season-ending injury during Week 2 of the 2019 season, it didn’t seem prudent for Pittsburgh to meet the Dolphins’ asking price. Colbert went ahead anyway and got his guy, trading a first-round pick in 2020, a fifth-round pick in 2020 and a 2021 sixth-round pick for Fitzpatrick, a 2020 fourth-round pick and a 2021 seventh-round pick.
To say the move paid off would be quite the understatement. Fitzpatrick transformed Pittsburgh’s defense, picking off five passes in 14 games for the Steelers. On the strength of that defense, Pittsburgh remained in the playoff picture deep into the season despite starting QBs Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges for the last 14 games of the year. Fitzpatrick has remained one of the premier safeties in the NFL, with 11 interceptions in his two-plus years in Pittsburgh. He was rewarded with a four-year deal worth $73.6 million with $36 million guaranteed.
Fitzpatrick was obviously the crown jewel of the trade, but an underrated aspect is who Pittsburgh acquired with Miami’s draft picks. OG Kevin Dotson was selected with the fourth-round pick, while DB Tre Norwood was taken with the 2021 seventh-round pick. Norwood showed some flashes of potentially being a solid contributor in his rookie year, while Dotson was impressive his rookie season but missed a lot of 2021 with an injury. Dotson returning to his rookie year form could be key for Pittsburgh this year as they look to improve with a rebuilt offensive line.
As for Miami’s selections, they took OL Austin Jackson and DL Jason Stowbridge with the first- and-fifth round picks. The sixth-round selection ended up being traded. Jackson has struggled, while Stowbridge was released after just one season in Miami. There’s a real argument to be made that Pittsburgh ended up with the best two players in the trade, and if Norwood continues to develop, they could end up with the top three players.
Even if Pittsburgh didn’t hit on their picks and Miami ended up with better production from theirs, I don’t think anyone in Pittsburgh would take the Fitzpatrick trade back. He’s a legitimate stud, and he’ll be patrolling the free safety position in Pittsburgh for a long time. Colbert went against convention by trading his first-round pick in a year where the Steelers could’ve gone into a freefall without their starting quarterback, but instead Fitzpatrick helped make the team competitive and he became a core part of the defense.
A lot of factors make this one of Colbert’s best trades, but the sheer guts to pull the trade off is honestly what I find most impressive. Colbert was comfortable with the front office and scouting evaluation of Fitzpatrick, and figured his production would outweigh any 2020 first-round pick, and he was right. By making the trade, Colbert potentially acquired an all-time great via trade, which is incredibly rare in the NFL. It marks not only one of the best trades of his tenure, but maybe one of the best in NFL history.