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Vukovcan: Fitzpatrick Trade Sign Steelers Plan to Contend in 2019

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The Pittsburgh Steelers have earned the reputation of being an organization that’s conservative and don’t make a habit of making off-the-field moves that involve risk, which makes the moves they’ve done in the last six months shocking.

First, they traded up into the top ten of the 2019 NFL Draft in order to acquire linebacker Devin Bush. Then Monday night, they shocked everyone by trading a 2020 first round pick for Miami Dolphins defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick.

How unusual is this trade? This will be the first time since 1967 –before Chuck Noll — that the Steelers won’t have a first round pick in the NFL Draft.

The fact that Kevin Colbert made this trade after learning that Ben Roethlisberger will miss the remainder of the 2019 due to elbow surgery is what has many people around the league and the city scratching their heads.

The thought by many is that the Steelers are going to be one of the worst teams in the league and traded away a possible Top 10 pick.

Why in the world would the Steelers do something like this? Another bad move by Colbert, right? I actually think it’s a brilliant move and I love it. Unlike their neighbors on the North Shore, the Steelers have always prioritized winning.

On paper and even without Roethlisberger, Mike Tomlin is coaching a talented roster. Offensively, they have a talented, veteran offensive line along with two emerging stars in JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner. Defensively, with the addition of Fitzpatrick, Keith Butler is now coaching 10 former first round picks (Bush, T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, Cam Heyward, Joe Haden, Terrell Edmunds, Mark Barron, Artie Burns and Tyson Alualu).

The Steelers don’t operate in the world of rebuilding plans and believe that even without Ben, they’re talented enough to compete for a playoff spot and the division title.

It’s no doubt a risky move but one that I believe is a risk worth taking.

Fitzpatrick is a 22-year-old proven commodity in the NFL. Last year, PPF rated him as the top slot cornerback in the entire NFL. Anyone that’s paid attention to the Steelers for the last five-plus years, knows that their defensive backfield has been a trouble area.

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In today’s pass-happy NFL, you need to be strong on the backside and now with Fitzpatrick, Edmunds, Haden and Steven Nelson, the team believes that area can now become a strength.

Former second-round pick Sean Davis is a free agent after the season and with the team’s spotty recent history of drafting defensive backs, the acquisition of Fitzpatrick eliminates the further need of trying to fix that position. Plus, they have his manageable contract for at least the next three seasons.

Maybe the biggest thing this trade does is send a signal to the players in the locker room and in particular Rudolph that the organization believes that all their 2019 goals are still attainable.

After receiving the news that he was the new starting quarterback, Rudolph’s life changed big time. He inherited the pressure of leading one of the highest profile organizations in the NFL. By executing a win-now move like trading for Fitzpatrick, Rudolph can’t help but believe that despite his inexperience, the organization believes they can win now with him under center.

I realize that Rudolph might not be ready and the rest of the roster and Steelers’ coordinators could continue to under-produce but the organization should be commended for going for it.

The window for this veteran group of players is closing and the futures of both head coach Tomlin and Colbert are uncertain.

Will this be a move that haunts the organization for years to come or will it be viewed as brilliant and one that jumpstarted the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers?

We’ll start to find out this Sunday in San Francisco.

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