Recent trades not sign Steelers abandoning traditional philosophies
Over the course of nine days, the Pittsburgh Steelers traded away two draft picks. That leaves them at the moment possessing only five picks for the upcoming draft, with potentially just one among the top 100 picks.
It has been uncharacteristic times in that regard for a franchise that has long prided itself on building through the draft and protecting their earliest picks.
But don’t ask coach Mike Tomlin about the apparent juggling of a desire to preserve future assets against a mandate to win immediately and help the Steelers dig out of their 0-3 hole.
“I don’t know if there’s anything that we’re juggling,” Tomlin said during his weekly news conference Wednesday. “We are just singularly focused on Monday night and winning this football game.”
The Steelers face the AFC North’s other winless team, the Cincinnati Bengals, at Heinz Field. A loss could further improve the positioning of the first-round draft pick the Steelers dealt to the Miami Dolphins on Sept. 17.
The Steelers netted Minkah Fitzpatrick in that deal, a playmaking safety who is a prime example of the lack of “juggling” Tomlin was referring to: Fitzpatrick had an interception and a forced fumble during his Steelers debut Sunday, and he’s 23 and under team control on bargain contract terms through 2022.
The trade officially announced Wednesday morning, though, is less a “juggle” and more obvious the motivation behind it. The Steelers submitted a fifth-round pick to the Seattle Seahawks for tight end Nick Vannett, a four-year veteran who has been mostly a backup in his career and who is in the final year of his contract.
That has the appearance of a move strictly for 2019, one that is for a No. 2 tight end (albeit with much lower acquisition cost).
Eight days after Tomlin went in depth expounding the virtues of Fitzpatrick, and three days after the safety had an eventful debut for the team, Tomlin was in no mood to discuss if he had any hesitation in mortgaging the future for what is an 0-3 team now.
“No,” he said. “I think I outlined that pretty well a week ago: no.”
ICYMI: Kevin Gorman: Minkah Fitzpatrick should have significant impact on Steelers secondary
(Via TribLive) https://t.co/FaYINWhS4O
— Kevin Gorman (@KGorman_Trib) September 21, 2019
The only juggling Tomlin will acknowledge that the Steelers are doing these days concerns getting their newest players up to speed for this week’s gameplan while also thinking longer-term in assimilating them into the offense or defense.
“You do things in short-term to get them ready to play in the stadium,” Tomlin said, “but then you also do things when you double back in terms of continuing teaching assignment elements of play.”
Last week, for example, Fitzpatrick had just three practices to prepare to be a starting free safety equipped to play every Steelers defensive snap.
“With new guys like Nick,” Tomlin said, “we’ll get him ready to do the certain things we need him to do, but also acknowledging as we move forward that there’s going to be more depth to that teaching and understanding.”
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .