Minkah Fitzpatrick trade hurt Steelers in deep quarterback draft class

Minkah, Fitzpatrick, Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Minkah, Fitzpatrick, Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

Trading for Minkah Fitzpatrick did bolster the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense, but it hurt their chances of drafting a new franchise quarterback in 2020.

The Minkah Fitzpatrick deal with the Miami Dolphins helps the Pittsburgh Steelers for now, but may have hurt them in the future.

Pittsburgh did land an All-Pro ball-hawking defensive back in last season’s deal with the Dolphins, but it wasn’t without a price. Assuming the exercise the fifth-year option on him after next season, Fitzpatrick will be under Pittsburgh’s control through the 2022 NFL season. Fitzpatrick won’t be hitting his unrestricted free agency until he’s 26-years-old.

However, the Steelers didn’t qualify for the AFC playoffs after trading for Fitzpatrick with the Dolphins. This deal with Miami sent Pittsburgh’s 2020 first-round and 2020 fifth-round pick to the Dolphins, as well as a 2021 sixth-round pick. Though the Steelers received a fourth-round pick this year in the deal for Fitzpatrick, Pittsburgh only has one top-100 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.

With only the No. 49 overall pick to work with, Pittsburgh has unfortunately punted on drafting Ben Roethlisberger‘s successor in the loaded NFL quarterback draft class of 2020. Five signal-callers are going in the first round and players like Georgia’s Jake Fromm and Alabama’s Jalen Hurts could be off the board in the second round before Pittsburgh is even on the clock.

Pittsburgh’s window to win another Super Bowl will only be open for as long as Roethlisberger can continue to play at a high level. With maybe three years left in the tank, one precious year was already wasted when he had to undergo Tommy John surgery after tearing a ligament in his throwing elbow back in September.

We’ve already seen the limitations of Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges under center. Pittsburgh can win games with them, but neither of them are going to channel their inner Neil O’Donnell and lead the Steelers to a Super Bowl appearance. With the 2021 quarterback draft class looking considerably thinner than the 2020 class, Pittsburgh may regret sitting this quarterback draft out.

And it’s not just landing Roethlisberger’s heir apparent the Steelers will be missing out on. Many of these star quarterbacks are expected to go to AFC franchise. The Cincinnati Bengals will draft Joe Burrow No. 1 overall. We know the Miami Dolphins and the Los Angeles Charger are also going quarterback at No. 5 and No. 6, respectively, assuming they don’t trade up.

Then, there are teams like the Las Vegas Raiders, the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots who could be in line to draft someone like a Jordan Love or a Jacob Eason, assuming they don’t move up to draft either Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert somewhere in the top 10.

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Overall, the Steelers did get a great player in Fitzpatrick in their deal with the Dolphins. However, by handing the Dolphins another first-round pick in this loaded quarterback draft class, Miami is in tremendous shape to move up from No. 5 to draft the second-best signal-caller in the draft. In short, Tagovailoa will wear teal and orange, while Roethlisberger’s not long for black and yellow.