Winning solves a lot of problems, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your work and have fun doing it even without the winning. That is more true of a sport like football than it would be of just about any other, where there are clear divisions like the offensive players and the defensive players.
Even on a ‘bad’ team, a defense can take pride in its own performance in controlling what is in its power to control while the offense is terrible. That is kind of where the Pittsburgh Steelers were in 2019, with a top-five defense supporting a bottom-five offense, and unsurprisingly that resulted in an 8-8 record.
But it was a great year for the defense overall, with a lot of standout performances that culminated in four starters taking the trip to the Pro Bowl, those being T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Joe Haden. The former three were also all named first-team All-Pros.
It’s fun when you’re keeping the points down and yet you’re turning the ball over and getting sacks. Pretty much every defender who has been interviewed since the season ended, and even during the season, has said the same thing. Terrell Edmunds was the latest, talking to Missi Matthews for the team’s website about how to have that relationship while also playing at a high level.
Everyone was just bought-in. nobody cares who made the play, nobody cares how the play was made. It was all about going out there, stopping them, and trying to win the football game. Everybody every day in practice, we’re trying to just catch interceptions, celebrating, dancing with each other, trying to just develop that camaraderie, you could say that bond, and it showed on the field. Our play spoke for itself, and hopefully we can build off of that.
It helps to care less about who’s making plays when there are so many different people making plays. 12 different players contributed to their league-leading number of sacks. 11 players created at least one forced fumble. 10 players had at least one interception. And you can add those who recovered fumbles or registered passes defensed that were picked off.
Unfortunately for Edmunds, a second-year former first-round draft pick, he actually didn’t do any of things last year. He did finish second on the team with 105 tackles, but his season wasn’t very splashy at all.
The Virginia Tech product did not make the sort of second-year jump that was expected, though he did improve. Much will be expected of him in year three, however, as he enters his second season in collaboration with Fitzpatrick along the back end.