Tim Benz: You can like Minkah Fitzpatrick but not like Steelers trading for him | TribLIVE.com
Tim Benz, Columnist

Tim Benz: You can like Minkah Fitzpatrick but not like Steelers trading for him

Tim Benz
Miami Dolphins free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick greets fans before a game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Miami Gardens, Fla.

Can you love the acquisition of the player without liking the trade that brings him to town?

You applaud the player. Fill a position of need. See the long-term vision of the player’s contract. Appreciate your own club’s gusto to improve the roster at a crucial time.

But you hate what it took to get him away from his old team.

Is that possible?

Sure. Does the name Chris Archer ring any bells? How about Derick Brassard?

Most of Pittsburgh was doing backflips when the Pirates and Penguins nabbed those respective players in 2018.

But the acquisitions came at quite a cost for both clubs. The Bucs gave Tampa two former first-round picks (Shane Baz and Austin Meadows), plus former top-flight pitching prospect Tyler Glasnow.

The Pens moved a first-round pick, a third-round pick, Ian Cole and Ryan Reaves in a three-team trade to land Brassard.

Enter the Steelers and their deal on Monday, which saw the franchise pick up defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick from the Miami Dolphins for next year’s first-round draft choice.

Again, I find myself saying, “Love the player. Fills a need. Good contract. What a great way to improve in a hurry.”

But what a bad, bad year for the Steelers to finally give up a first-round draft choice.

Let me be as clear as possible about this point early on. I have no reason to believe that Fitzpatrick will fail in the same way that Archer has so far, and the way Brassard did.

I think Fitzpatrick will be a great player. Anyone who paid attention to the 2018 draft from a Black and Gold perspective would have salivated at the prospect of the Steelers acquiring him. But with Fitzpatrick going 11th and the Steelers drafting 28th, he was never going to slide that far. In fact, I was surprised Fitzpatrick lasted through the top 10 picks.

It seems like Mike Tomlin felt the same way.

“It’s our overall level of comfort about the player,” Tomlin said Tuesday. “When he came out (of the 2018 draft), we did our due diligence on all of those guys. He was a guy who, I went to (the University of Alabama) twice during the draft process for.

“There was a sense of readiness, a sense of knowing among us about his capabilities, his character, his football abilities, his abilities to fit within what we do. All of those boxes had been checked prior to the draft.”

If the Steelers had been aggressive and traded up to get him the same way they did Devin Bush a year later, I would’ve applauded wildly.

So I expect Fitzpatrick to shine at Heinz Field.

Then again, like most of the city, I thought Brassard would be great here and Archer would, at least, be better than he has been.

This trade can’t be evaluated until we see the actual cost at the end of the season. By then we’ll know exactly what the Steelers have given up.

This organization hasn’t missed out on a first-round draft choice since 1967. Keeping the first-rounder is a core principle of the front office.

So why this year? Perhaps the need to win now is suddenly greater because it looks like they can’t. Is that the mentality as opposed to seasons when they looked close?

Why Minkah Fitzpatrick instead of, say, Patrick Peterson last season?

Given the subtractions of Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown from this year’s team, it’s entirely possible that the Steelers could be looking at a top ten selection. After 2018 concluded, four 6-10 teams tied for picks No. 8 through No. 11 in the draft order.

If the Steelers record does fall that far, it’d be a likely indication that Mason Rudolph may not be the guy to replace Roethlisberger. A chance to draft that high would afford the Steelers an opportunity to address a potential need at the quarterback position. The last time the Steelers were that high on the draft board was in April 2004, after a 6-10 result.

They drafted Roethlisberger.

If not a quarterback, how about selecting a premier pass rusher to replace Bud Dupree, who will leave via free agency this year?

I understand that for the rest of this year — and next — Fitzpatrick is an immediate replacement at free safety for another free-agent-to-be (the injured Sean Davis). But the Steelers have gone to AFC Championship games and Super Bowls with guys such as Brent Alexander, Chris Hope, and Ryan Clark at that position. Solid starters. Not superstars.

If Kevin Colbert gets a pick that high, it better be a pass-rusher, quarterback or superstar wide receiver. Not a free safety.

Discussing a trade like the one involving Fitzpatrick is frustrating because, if you are dubious of the move, you come off as if you are against the player.

I’m not. Fitzpatrick makes the Pittsburgh Steelers a better football team.


I just wonder if he will make them better than the theoretical “what could’ve been” in 2020.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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