The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Terrell Edmunds in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft with the intention of him becoming a starter, but it wasn’t supposed to be immediate. They brought in veteran Morgan Burnett to be the starter, but injuries complicated that leading up to the start of the season.
That resulted in Edmunds playing the season opener as the starting strong safety with Burnett rotating in. Burnett started the following game, with Edmunds rotating in, but the veteran spent the rest of the time until the bye week battling an injury.
The end result has been Edmunds starting 10 of 11 games as a rookie and rarely coming off the field. He has 47 tackles on the season and two quarterback hits to go along with an interception returned for 35 yards, three passes defensed, and a fumble recovery.
Coming out of the bye week, Head Coach Mike Tomlin talked about wanting to reel back on Edmunds’ snap count, playing constantly, and as a ‘starter’ on special teams as well. But we only saw that come into effect for a couple of games before Burnett reverted back to his niche role as the dime defender.
Defensive coordinator Keith Butler was asked about the challenges of having a rookie starter at strong safety during his media availability yesterday. He said that “you always look for” a potential drop-off in performance when you have a rookie playing a high snap count, especially when it includes special teams”, according to the team’s communications department.
“You always hope he doesn’t have a drop-off in play,” but he said that “our head coach does as he should”, referring to Edmunds’ role on special teams and the value that it has to the team’s collective efforts to win football games. “He’s going to give [special teams coordinator] Danny Smith the best chance he can get by giving him the best players he can give him”.
While Edmunds was not supposed to be in the starting lineup already at this point in his career, Butler offered, “you have to do what you have to do. If you have guys hurt at the safety position you try to put together the best players on the field that you have as much as you can and still try to get through the long journey that we are going to be on, that we are on right now and trying to win games”.
The first-round pick’s rookie season has had its ups and downs, and he has certainly made his rookie mistakes, but he has also consistently shown progress being made on a roughly weekly basis. That will be of benefit in the long run.