The 2019 NFL Draft is drawing near, which seems to be a fitting time to take a look back at the rookie seasons of the Pittsburgh Steelers class from the 2018 NFL Draft. People start talking about the quality of a draft class before said class is even completed, of course, but now we have a year of data to work form.
Over the course of the next several days, I will be providing an overview of the team’s rookies, as well as an evaluation of each rookie that the Steelers drafted, while also noting any undrafted free agents that were able to stick around. This will not include the likes of Matt McCrane and Trey Griffey because they were first-year players, not rookies.
The Steelers went into the 2018 NFL Draft with eight selections, including two in the third round, but ended up trading out of the sixth round to move up in the third. They had two fifth-round selections and none in the fourth round, and flipped a number of picks due to multiple trades
Continuing a recent trend, the class has proven to be top-heavy in terms of early results, though there are still opportunities for those selected by them in the later rounds of the draft to develop into bigger contributors as well.
Player: Terrell Edmunds
Draft Status: 1st round (28th overall)
As was the case with last year’s first-round draft pick, T.J. Watt, Terrell Edmunds played very extensively during his rookie season. Even taking into consideration the fact that Watt did miss one game as a rookie, Edmunds played about 200 more snaps on defense over 16 games with 15 starts, which is obviously an enormous workload.
That was not the plan. The Steelers signed Morgan Burnett in free agency to function as a bridge starter for their next safety, but even after taking Edmunds in the first round, the plan was for the rookie to learn in his first season, perhaps playing the dime role that ended up being Burnett’s.
That is because the veteran was so frequently injured that he spent enough time on the sidelines for Edmunds to take his place. He ended up working a lot with the first-team defense during training camp, and once the season opener rolled around, they were more comfortable going with him.
Burnett did start in Week Two, and had he stayed healthy, that is presumably how it would have remained. But he injured himself yet again in that game, missing the next four games, and five weeks, through the team’s bye week.
During that time, Edmunds took his rookie lumps but came through it all the better, and started to show the potential to be a playmaker as the season wore on, registering a sack and four defensive stops—including one that was nearly a forced fumble—against the Chargers, for example.
The Steelers expect Edmunds, who turned 22 in January, to take a big step forward in 2019, and if he does so, that could go a long way toward solidifying the back end of the defense, and thus the group as a whole.