It’s frankly been a while since the Pittsburgh Steelers last used a first-round draft pick on an offensive player. For the sixth consecutive year, the first player the team selected in the draft was one looking to keep points off the board, rather than put them on.
They used the 28th-overall pick on safety Terrell Edmunds this year, the second defensive back added in three years in the first round after they used their top pick on cornerback Artie Burns in 2016. Burns was not a player who was expected to play much during his rookie season, but he ended up as a starter halfway through and picked off three passes.
NFL analyst Bucky Brooks offers a similar projection for Edmunds during his rookie season. He recently posted an article in which he details the best- and worst-case scenarios for the rookie defensive players who were selected in the first round, and also projected a stat line.
For Edmunds, Brooks believes he is capable of producing three interceptions this season. The rest of the numbers are six passes defensed, one sack, and 66 tackles.
Of his best-case scenario for the rookie, Brooks writes, “the Steelers’ desire to put more speed, quickness and thump on the field could prompt Mike Tomlin to insert Edmunds into the lineup as a mobile playmaker capable of creating splash plays from the box or deep middle”. He added, “the rookie’s versatility could make him a star on a defense that needs a playmaker to step up in Ryan Shazier‘s absence”.
A playmaker is, in fact, exactly what the Steelers are missing without Shazier, which is a topic that we have discussed on a number of occasions since the linebacker’s injury. We also talked about Edmunds as a possible player who could develop into that. It would definitely be the best-case scenario to project that for his rookie year, however.
“Despite coming off the board as a first-round pick, Edmunds will have to earn his way onto the field as a first-year player”, Brooks wrote in his worst-case scenario. “The Steelers’ system isn’t complicated, but young players have to adjust to the speed of the pro game. If Edmunds is slow to acclimate to the system or the pace of play, he could be forced to serve as a role player in the team’s sub packages”.
Personally, I do see that as a pretty realistic worst-case scenario for Edmunds, barring injury. I think he’s too much of an athlete and too dedicated a worker to be kept off the field. The only realistic alternative is if Cameron Sutton proves too good and too versatile, but the rookie safety could even spell one of the starters at his position in a rotation.
That is how they got Sean Davis into the starting lineup as a rookie. In the second half of the season, he began rotating with Robert Golden, a sequence that lasted for two games before he started and took all the snaps. If he plays well enough and earns it, I think we’ve learned by now that we should not dismiss the chances of a rookie first-round pick starting.