The Pittsburgh Steelers have gotten four starts out of five games from rookie first-round safety Terrell Edmunds, though that wasn’t the plan heading into the season. It was supposed to be veteran Morgan Burnett, but he has only been healthy enough to participate in two games, and start in one.
We are quickly approaching a point in the season in which it is not at all clear if Burnett will ever regain his starting job, and whether or not that happens surely depends a great deal on what Edmunds has done, and perhaps will continue to do, with the opportunity that the veteran’s misfortune has provided him.
The rookie has, in truth, had a lot of rough snaps under his belt, but is coming off arguably his best game, registering seven tackles, including five solo tackles. Five of those tackles counted as defensive stops in preventing the offense from recording a successful play (for example, a tackle on a five-yard pass on second and 10).
Head Coach Mike Tomlin talked about the experience that his top rookie has had this season, essentially chalking it up to a baptism by fire. Last year, T.J. Watt was a wall-to-wall starter on offense, but that was the plan heading into the season, so Edmunds’ situation is different.
“The journey sometimes is a learning process, and sometimes it’s on the job training”, the head coach told reporters during his pre-game press conference yesterday. “And so when you think about a guy like Edmunds, he’s getting on the job training and having to deliver a winning performance at the same time”.
So far through his first five games, the strong safety has recorded 19 tackles in total, including 14 in just the last two games. He also has an interception and a fumble recovery under his belt, and two total passes defensed, though he has also had some key breakdowns that seem to be trending in the right direction as time goes on.
“I believe he’s up to the task”, Tomlin said of the younger of the two Edmunds brothers on the payroll, as my way of reminding you that Trey Edmunds is on the practice squad. “He’s a talented young guy, he’s hardworking, but at the same time he respects his lack of experience. And you see that in terms of his preparation and the way that he leans on veteran players”.
But he is also dealing with a minor injury, while Burnett is working his way back from a groin injury that has kept him out of the last three games. We’ll know more by the time the players hit the practice field today about what the safety position will hold for Sunday.
Should Burnett not be ready to return, but Edmunds is, he can help to solidify his hold on a starting job coming out of the other side of the bye week. Or, should things go in the opposite direction, he may have already started the last game of his rookie season.