The ‘rookie wall’ is a real thing, until it’s not. Or, at least, not every rookie hits it. Bud Dupree did. T.J. Watt did not. Even though he played nearly 1200 snaps last season between defense and special teams, Pittsburgh Steelers starting safety Terrell Edmunds believes that he only got stronger as the year wore on.
“Once you get more snaps under your belt, you make those mistakes in practice, you make mistakes in a game, you learn from your mistakes and you build off of that”, he told Gerry Dulac recently for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I felt as if, personally, I had grown throughout the season. It’s just a dogfight all year”.
The ‘rookie wall’ largely concerns the fact that the NFL plays a longer, 16-game season than what we see in college football, so players’ bodies have to get used to playing more snaps than they had previously during their football life. They are also, of course, playing against a higher level of competition, even simply from a physical standpoint.
Perhaps his background, like Watt, provided an edge for Edmunds that most rookies do not. Both of the Steelers’ two most recent first-round picks who have played have done so as players who already knew what it takes, from family members, to be a professional.
Knowing how to take care of yourself, physically, mentally, and otherwise, also has a lot to do with being able to run through the rookie wall. Edmunds’s father was a Pro Bowl player, and he already had an older brother—current Steelers running back Trey Edmunds—on the roster to consult with beforehand, so that’s not something he had to learn once he arrived.
Of course it’s one thing to be told second-hand about what it’s like in the NFL and another to experience it for yourself. Especially when it comes to the speed and processing that it takes to play at this level. So a year into his career, he already sees a significant difference in himself.
“Last year you can say everything was moving faster. From the first day of OTAs last year to the first day of OTAs this year, you can just tell because everything was moving so fast, everybody was moving fast”, he said. “And now that you have those snaps under your belt, that year under your belt, you’re one of those guys now, like you’re moving fast to the young guys now”.
The Steelers need to see him make a similar jump during the regular season. He needs to play like a veteran in order to help this secondary settle down, which now features Joe Haden and Steven Nelson as their starting outside cornerbacks.