When the Pittsburgh Steelers defense takes the field for the first time in 2019, the team is going to fully expect rookie Terrell Edmunds to be one of their impact players on the unit. The 2018 first-round pick has already undergone his trial by fire this year, scheduled to start his 15th of 16 games on Sunday, and having played significantly in all of them.
You could see his growing pains early on, but especially over the course of the past month or so in the month of December, he has started to round into form. While he may not be consistently delivering impact plays—though he has been getting closer and closer—he has become a more reliable performer.
Nine-year veteran Joe Haden has worked with a lot of defensive backs over the course with a variety of levels of experience. He has been watching Edmunds throughout his rookie season both on and off the field, and he likes the future he has ahead.
“I’m really, really impressed with Terrell”, he told reporters yesterday while he was accepting The Chief Award (on the same day, Edmunds was also receiving the team’s rookie of the year honor). “His professionalism, just being able to be drafted where he was drafted and still coming in so hungry and trying to just absorb everything from everybody, from Morgan [Burnett], from [Sean] Davis, from myself”.
Burnett was signed early in the offseason with the intention of him being the starter this year. While his being brought in would not affect their draft plans, as they knew he would not be a long-term answer, the thinking when they drafted Edmunds was that the rookie would have the opportunity to learn mostly from the bench this season.
Injuries to the veteran, and Edmunds’ excellent conditioning and work ethic, ended up changing those plans. It’s quite likely that he had to play before he was really ready to, but perhaps he will end up having been better for it in the long run.
To Haden, the most important thing that the rookie has shown this year has been the willingness to learn and to be taught. “Just taking coaching, not thinking he knows everything, just always, always trying to work hard and get better every day”, he said. “I think he’s got a very, very good base foundation, so just coming into this offseason and just continuing to understand the defense better so he can be more of a vocal leader”.
Let’s all hope Haden is right, because the Steelers need Edmunds to be a foundational piece in a secondary that otherwise doesn’t have one. Haden will be 30 next year and most others, including him, are currently not under contract beyond 2019.