Just two weeks into the new 2019 NFL season and the Pittsburgh Steelers (0-2) are out of playoff contention. That would be the consensus in the eyes of many after starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is now out for the season with an elbow injury. Despite losing Big Ben for the remainder of the season, the Steelers are still looking to win after trading for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick from the Miami Dolphins. The details of the trade include Fitzpatrick, a fourth-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and a seventh-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft to Pittsburgh for their first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, a fifth-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and a sixth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Pittsburgh met with some criticisms since they could’ve kept the first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft for a quarterback. Steelers Nation is excited about them acquiring a more talented and efficient, young safety. Many experts believe that the Steelers will be out of the playoffs due to Big Ben’s injury. This is before judging the Steelers with their new starters in Fitzpatrick and quarterback Mason Rudolph. Steelers Nation and critics need to be patient and watch what happens this remaining season.
Minkah Fitzpatrick Is a Legit Grab for the Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers have drafted defensive rookies very as well as trading and pick up free agents. The one position they have not addressed well since the retirement of Troy Polamalu is a free safety. That changed when the Steelers traded for one of the most versatile defenders in the NFL. In just one season last year, Fitzpatrick has proven he is a dependable player at multiple positions. Fitzpatrick can play both safety positions, slot cornerback, some man coverage cornerback, and inside linebacker. Last season for the Dolphins, Fitzpatrick accounted for 80 total tackles (fifth on the team), 51 solo tackles, two tackles for loss, and nine pass deflections (tied for second on the team). This was when the Dolphins were moving him in versatile areas as one of the more talented defenders. This was expected when the Dolphins drafted 11th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Right after the Dolphins began their process of tanking for high draft picks, the Dolphins played Fitzpatrick at strong safety. This was a position that gave him the least comfortability to make plays and to move freely. The Dolphins granted his request for a trade to a Pittsburgh where he will immediately start at free safety. He will be on the opposite of the safety zone from second-year strong safety Terrell Edmunds, who leads the Steelers in total tackles (18) and solo tackles (13). Trading a potential top-10 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft might come back to haunt them. Pittsburgh believes they don’t need to use that pick on a quarterback and safety was the most needed position to address. Fitzpatrick might be the safety the Steelers could’ve gotten either late in the Draft or free agency.
Mason Rudolph Will Have to Prove Doubters Wrong (Even Before Starting)
By trading a first-round pick for Fitzpatrick, Pittsburgh has shown they have faith in now starting quarterback Mason Rudolph. He took over after Big Ben was injured in the 28-26 home loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Rudolph did a good job with the condition he was placed into for Pittsburgh. He threw for 12 completions (out of 19 attempts) for 112 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. Rudolph will have a full week of practice to get the Steelers offense ready for the San Francisco 49ers (2-0). Before Big Ben got injured, he accounted for a lower-tier QBR of 20.8, one interception, and no touchdowns. Rudolph will show he can be the future of Pittsburgh with a talented offensive line and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is looking to emerge as a dominant number one receiver. Rudolph and wide receiver James Washington can connect back to their Oklahoma State Cowboys days.
No Need to Draft a Top Quarterback Now; Big Ben Will Be Back
If Mason Rudolph does not work out for the Steelers, they will get Big Ben back from injury for the 2020 NFL season. He has been on the fence regarding retirement but before the season, he has shown more hunger for football than ever before. With Big Ben back, he can train Rudolph more under his wing or wait for the opportunity for the Steelers to get the next successor to him in the 2021 NFL Draft. This would be a similar situation when the Green Bay Packers selecting quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the 2005 NFL Draft when Brett Favre was still the starter.
No matter how much of a bad situation the Steelers could be in during the season, they wouldn’t lose enough games to be in the top eight picks of the fourth round for the 2020 NFL Draft. This is the pick that the Dolphins own anyways. The Steelers are confident in the talent level of Fitzpatrick and the recovery plan for Big Ben. Last season ended in a nightmare with wide receiver Antonio Brown causing hell in the locker room impacting the field. Of the chance that Roethlisberger retires then there are plenty free agents or potential trades that Pittsburgh could investigate. He has stated he wants to return to Pittsburgh next season especially after accounting for career-high passing yards (5,129) and touchdowns (34) last season.