While he hasn’t gotten a lot of attention, the play of rookie starting strong safety Terrell Edmunds has been on the rise for most of the season, and he has played some of his best football to date over the course of the month of December. Of course it’s normal for a rookie’s level of understanding to improve over the course of the year, but keeping up with the physicality is often an obstacle.
He may not be a difference maker right now, but the Pittsburgh Steelers could do worse than Edmunds, who has made some plays in recent weeks and has been continuing to show an expanded understanding of not only his responsibilities but of the defensive schemes as a whole.
While he might not know that Tyler Eifert won’t be out on the field, defensive coordinator Keith Butler knows where Edmunds will be, and that’s a compliment when you’re talking about a rookie starter. He talked about the first-rounders’ progression over the course of the 2018 season, per the team’s communications department.
“He’s played a lot of games. Probably more games than he’s ever played in his life in a season and he’s gotten better and better each ball game”, Butler observed. “He’s getting a feel of what we are trying to do and his responsibility, not only his responsibility but the people around him so he’s starting to see that pretty good, too”.
The Steelers didn’t draft him with the idea in mind of him being a plug-and-play starter. Not only was he an underclassman, he was also coming off a labrum tear at the end of his final collegiate season. 2018 was supposed to be a growing year, but he is projected to play about 1000 defensive snaps by the end of the season.
That’s not a fact that is lost on Butler, who once upon a time was a rookie in the NFL himself at the beginning of a long and successful playing career as a linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks. “All I can relate to is I was a rookie”, he said. “I know I felt that 16 games when I was a rookie, too, so it was hard at the time”.
Over the course of the first 15 games of his rookie season, Edmunds has recorded 73 tackles, including one for a loss, in addition to a sack, three hits, an interception, four passes defensed, and a fumble recovery. He nearly had a forced fumble against the Los Angeles Chargers, but it was ruled not a catch, so only went down as a pass defensed.