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How a Tennessee quarterback became the future of the Steelers offensive line

As trades in the NFL occur, it turns from one player into another, into another, into another…

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

In case you didn’t know, I love tracing back how the Steelers were able to land a certain player based on the previous moves which put them, or the draft pick used to select them, into their hands. Whether it be connecting Santonio Holmes to Diontae Johnson, or Keyaron Fox to James Conner, it’s a fun little exercise in diving into the rabbit hole to see exactly how someone landed with our beloved Steelers.

This time, we begin in 2012 and the eighth overall selection of the NFL draft. After seeing Andrew Luck go number one overall to the Indianapolis Colts ending the Peyton Manning era, they were a couple of top five picks who ended up being NFL busts. First, Trent Richardson did not pan out at running back for the Cleveland Browns at the number three pick, and at number five wide receiver Justin Blackmon had all sorts of trouble with the Jacksonville Jaguars. A member the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2019, Mark Barron was the seventh overall pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2012 draft.

While we could reminisce about the entire 2012 draft, the player which starts this process was quarterback Ryan Tannehill who was selected by the Miami Dolphins at the eighth position. After three seasons and a record of 23-25, Tannehill signed a $96 million extension in 2015 which would have kept him with the Dolphins through the 2020 season.

Unfortunately, Tannehill only spent four more years in Miami, three of which he saw the field where his combined record was 19-21. Tannehill missed the Dolphins final three games of the 2016 season, along with their playoff matchup in Pittsburgh, due to a partially torn ACL. After choosing therapy and rehab over surgery, Tannehill ultimately had to have surgery during training camp of the 2017 season. After missing another five games in the middle of the 2018 season with a shoulder injury, the Dolphins chose to move on from Tannehill.

Traded at the beginning of the 2019 league year, Tannehill was moved from the Miami Dolphins to the Tennessee Titans in exchange for a 2020 fourth-round draft pick as well as the Dolphins swapping their 2019 sixth-round pick for the Titans 2019 seventh-round pick.

The pick the Titans sent to the Dolphins ended up being the 135th overall pick in 2020. But the Dolphins did not use this draft pick. Instead, it became a part of trade which brought Minkah Fitzpatrick to the Steelers.

Following Week 2 of the 2019 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers acquired safety Minkah Fitzpatrick from the Miami Dolphins in exchange for their 2020 first-round draft pick. Also included in the deal was the Steelers gaining a fourth-round pick from the Dolphins in exchange for the Steelers fifth-round draft pick in 2020, as well as the Steelers sending their sixth-round pick in 2021 to the Dolphins in exchange for their seventh-round draft pick.

Interesting enough, the Miami Dolphins did not send their own fourth-round draft pick to the Steelers in 2020, but it was the draft pick they acquired from trading Ryan Tannehill to Tennessee. With this draft pick, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Kevin Dotson with the 135th overall selection.

Dotson surprised many in his rookie year with the Steelers despite not even being invited to the NFL combine. Going into the 2021 season, Dotson is projected to be the Steelers starter at left guard.

So there is the connection. The Miami Dolphins eighth overall draft pick in 2012 helped lead to the Steelers drafting Kevin Dotson in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL draft. It was the fourth-round draft pick the Dolphins acquired for Ryan Tannehill, which ended up being a part of the package sent to the Steelers along with Minkah Fitzpatrick.