It seems like an eternity since the Pittsburgh Steelers last used a first-round draft pick on an offensive player. You would have to go all the way back to 2012 when they drafted right guard David DeCastro—and I think we can agree that has turned out pretty well since he’s always in the Pro Bowl.
Every year since then, however, the Steelers have devoted their first-round pick to the defensive side of the ball, starting with Jarvis Jones, which obviously didn’t work out so well, and then Ryan Shazier, which worked out great until he suffered a severe spinal injury. That he is able to begin jogging about a year later is pretty remarkable.
Then there was Bud Dupree, Artie Burns, T.J. Watt, and Terrell Edmunds. Of that group, only Watt seems to be anything close to a sure thing, Burns in particularly seemingly doomed in terms of his long-term plans in Pittsburgh. Dupree had his fifth-year option picked up, but we’ll see what happens.
Edmunds is only in his rookie season but has gotten a lot of playing time and is a cornerstone of the defense that the Steelers see being built around them. And the rookie likes what he sees. “We’re just getting all the pieces together”, he said.
“We had a lot of close games this year, we’ve just been coming up short. This season could have been totally opposite right now. We could have been all joyful and cheerful right now, but we didn’t win the games that we were supposed to win. We came up short in a few games. So I definitely say that we laid a solid foundation down, hopefully to build on in the upcoming years and just go to where we want to be”.
The Steelers’ defense has been a Jekyll and Hyde affair, sometimes impressing and sometimes horrifying. They stopped Tom Brady but couldn’t keep Derek Carr down. Cam Newton was overwhelmed but the Denver Broncos got the better of them in the fourth quarter.
The struggles, and the on-field issues, led to the players taking matters into their own hands a bit, Edmunds suggested. “At the beginning of the season, including myself, we were all over the place. So just over the whole season, we just had extra meetings, just players meetings and things like that just to make sure everybody’s on the same page, make sure everybody knows exactly what they’re doing”.
“Because nobody else can go out there and play for us”, the rookie told reporters. “The coaches can’t go play. anybody that’s talking in the media can’t go play. anybody that’s talking on social media can’t go play. So we just really came together as a group and really just bonded together and really just digested what we needed to do”.
Of course the defense still hasn’t gotten the stops at the end of the fourth quarter outside of the Patriots game. If the plan is to come back with the same personnel in 2019, then there is going to need to be a lot of internal growth from players like Edmunds.