While it wasn’t the plan, the Pittsburgh Steelers have ended up—so far—with a rookie starter on defense in Terrell Edmunds, their first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. The strong safety out of Virginia Tech has started five of the Steelers’ first six games with Morgan Burnett missing four games in his first season with the team.
His performance, to say the least, has been up and down, the game against the Baltimore Ravens being generally down, but improving over the past two weeks, in particular in coverage, both with respect to playing within the defense and in being able to execute when targeted.
With the first six weeks of the 2018 regular season in the books, Pro Football Focus has provided an update on the performances of each team’s first-round draft pick(s), and with the Steelers on their bye week, I figured it would be a good time to cover that.
“The Steelers’ rookie safety had a productive day against the Bengals in Week 6”, Michael Chichester writes for the outlet in an article summarizing all 32 first-round picks. “Logging most of his snaps at free safety, the majority of Edmunds’ work came in coverage, where he allowed two catches for 15 yards, with just five of those yards coming after the catch”.
The site has given him a grade of 62 so far, which has been an upward trend for him after having a lot more struggles over the course of the first four weeks of the season. It was only a few weeks ago, in fact, that I myself wrote an article that Burnett had no fear of losing his job whenever he returns from injury because Edmunds’ performance had been that unreliable.
A grade of 62, by the way, is between average and above average. He ranks 44th among safeties who have played at least half of their team’s defensive snaps. For the record, since people will inevitably be wondering, the site has Sean Davis listed as the 18th-best safety with an overall grade of 74. It’s the second-highest grade of any safety in the AFC North.
At least for the moment, it does appear as though Edmunds is going to be ‘the starter’, but as we know that can always change. It’s still quite possible that the coaching staff chooses to reinstall Burnett into the lineup once he is able, but even failing that, he can always be the fallback should the rookie struggle in the second half of the year.