The Steelers did not make a selection in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft on Thursday night.
Instead, their pick played most of last season for them, as the Steelers traded their first round draft pick to the Miami Dolphins for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick last fall.
It was seen as an usually bold move for Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert. The Steelers had not traded their first-round draft pick since 1967, and the successful Steelers teams of the 1970s and 2000s were build through the draft instead of the quick-fixes of trades and free agency.
Furthermore, the trade for Fitzpatrick came just day after the Steelers lost starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the remainder of the 2019 season, meaning that it was possible that the pick the Steelers traded for Fitzpatrick could end up being a high one.
Instead, Fitzpatrick was a big part of the Steelers finishing 8-8 and their draft choice landing at No. 18. In 14 games in Pittsburgh, he had five interceptions, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble and scored two touchdowns while becoming the centerpiece of a rejuvenated Pittsburgh secondary.
Yes, the Steelers missed the postseason after losing their final three games, but even when presented with the options the Dolphins were looking at with the No. 18 pick, Fitzpatrick is clearly the preferred option.
Miami’s pick went off the board a bit, as offensive tackle Austin Jackson was ranked No. 102 on Steelers Now’s 2020 NFL Draft Big Board.
But even if the Dolphins had taken one of the best players available, the best they could have done is a poor man’s version of Fitzpatrick in Alabama safety Xavier McKinney or Minnesota safety Antoine Winfield.