We’ll know the complete Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 draft class come Saturday night and odds are good it wuill include at least seven players as the team’s currently scheduled to make 10 selections this year. Regardless of the amount of players draft this year by the Steelers, general manager Kevin Colbert made it clear on Monday during the team’s annual pre-draft press conference that the longer those new players can sit and watch and thus not have play to much, the better it’ll likely be for them and the team in the long run.
“None of those signings will preclude us from taking a corner, a linebacker, or a receiver,” Colbert said Monday during an answer he gave to a question about the team now not necessarily needing to draft a conerback, wide receiver or inside linebacker early this year due to the free agent signings of Steven Nelson, Donte Moncrief and Mark Barron this offseason. “It just makes it a little less urgent because the people that we draft, the longer we can keep them off the field, the better for them, historically. Now there’s been some players, Maurkice Pouncey, first year starter, great player. You know, Ben [Roethlisberger] was forced to play because Tommy Maddox got hurt and obviously the results were great.
“But you really want to go in with these players and delay them getting on the field as long as you can, because over time, I think Coach [Mike Tomlin] would get comfortable with what they can do. But to have them just have to step out and play, more often than not, I think it’s detrimental to the player. And if he loses his confidence early, it’s usually not returnable.”
Last season, Steelers safety Terrell Edmunds, the team’s 2018 first-round draft pick, was forced onto the field right away thanks to veteran safety Morgan Burnett being sidelined with an injury. Edmunds was even a Week 1 starter and he went on to start 15 games in total during his rookie season and played 966 total defensive snaps, second-most on the team
Colbert was asked about how he thinks Edmunds needing to be rushed onto the field as a rookie ultimately worked out for the Virginia Tech product.
“Edmunds played more than I think we predicted and I think over time, throughout the fall, he got better,” Colbert said. “Was he ready for that? I don’t think so. Coach [Tomlin] can address that as well, but by the end of the season we felt more comfortable. But had he been in a backup situation, I think it would have been more beneficial for him.”
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin then have his thoughts on Edmunds’ rookie season play.
“Yeah, his play was above the line, but it wasn’t born out of an opportunity earned,” Tomlin said of Edmunds. “It was really just out of the lack of availability of others and so you’re less comfortable with that. But his play was above the line.”
Edmunds having to play so much during his rookie season should be greatly taken into account when examining and grading his efforts. Additionally, with Edmunds having to play so much as a rookie and combined with the fact that it appears as though he exited last season with his confidence still fully intact, hopefully that will result in him making a huge jump in his second season.
Another member of the Steelers 2018 draft class, wide receiver James Washington, the team’s second-round selection, played just 526 offensive snaps as a rookie. Tomlin talked briefly about him and his rookie season on Monday as well.
“I’m comfortable with the guys that we have in the [wide receiver] room at this juncture, but my comfort is not indicative of how it’s [the draft] going to play out,” Tomlin said. “We got some guys that need to be guys that are ascending, specifically James Washington, but you know the climate that we create for all second-year players. We were having similar discussions about James Conner a year ago. We expect great things from James Washington, among others, and we’re excited about watching those guys stand and deliver.”