Updated: Jun 30
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Excluding draft trades, Kevin Colbert has only made one blockbuster trade during his tenure with the Steelers since 2000 and the move has been incredibly successful so far. In September of 2019, the Steelers traded a first-round pick to the Dolphins to acquire free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. The trade included additional exchanges, as well.
The trade was heavily criticized by some as they viewed it as a desperate move to salvage the season with Ben Roethlisberger suffering a season-ending elbow injury, and the Steelers were also without a first-round pick for the first time since 1967.
Fitzpatrick has been everything the Steelers had hoped for, however. He's been named first-team All-Pro the last two seasons and has established himself as one of the best safeties in the game. Since arriving to Pittsburgh, Fitzpatrick has recorded nine interceptions, 20 passes defended and three defensive touchdowns
Tyler Sullivan of CBS Sports released his top safeties in the NFL recently, and Fitzpatrick came in at No. 3 -- behind Tyran Mathieu and Justin Simmons.
"Fitzpatrick will likely be firmly inside this top five for the foreseeable future," Sullivan wrote. "During his first full season with the Steelers last year, Fitzpatrick earned his second-consecutive All-Pro nod as a member of one of the better defenses in the entire NFL. He injected an opportunistic edge to Pittsburgh's defense when he was acquired from the Dolphins in 2019 and that continued into 2020 where he started all 16 games and hauled in four interceptions. He also notched a career-high 11 pass breakups, while allowing a completion percentage of just 50. When targeted, Fitzpatrick gave up just a 65.7 passer rating."
Fitzpatrick also made Nick Shook of NFL.com's 2021 All-Under-25 Team.
"Fitzpatrick makes an appearance on this list for the second year in a row. He's one of only two players with 10 or more interceptions and three or more returned for a touchdown since 2018, joining Marcus Peters in this rare company," Shook wrote. "Fitzpatrick allowed the lowest completion percentage (45.5%) in the NFL last season, per Next Gen Stats (min. 30 targets). His ballhawk rate (the percentage of targets where the nearest defender made a pass defensed or interception) of 33.3 percent ranked third in the league, painting a picture of a complete safety with even more room to grow. It's truly remarkable that Fitzpatrick has done all of this and won't turn 25 until November."
A few weeks ago during OTAs, Fitzpatrick expressed his gratitude to the Steelers for placing the fifth-year option on him, which really was a no-brainer decision for the organization.
"You definitely appreciate it," Fitzpatrick said. "It guarantees me another year in Pittsburgh. Great city, great team, great organization. It's a blessing. Getting that sigh of relief. You don't have to worry about what if, what if, for another two years. It's definitely a blessing. I am happy it happened. I want to make them proud of their decision."
In March, Justin Simmons signed a four-year, $61 million contract with the Broncos that included $35 million guaranteed. The new deal made him the highest-paid safety in the league, averaging $15.25 million per year. Fitzpatrick should cash in on a big deal after this season and surpass Simmons as the highest-paid safety.