The Pittsburgh Steelers have one of the better secondaries in the NFL, only one player among their starters having been brought into the organization initially. That would be 2018 first-round pick Terrell Edmunds, their strong safety, who is widely regarded as their weakest link behind Minkah Fitzpatrick, Joe Haden, Steven Nelson, and Mike Hilton in the slot.
Truth be told, Edmunds being the weak link in the Steelers’ secondary is an issue most teams in the NFL would love to have, because if he is the worst player at the back end you can muster, then you’re doing a pretty good job. That is also taking into consideration his pedigree, the transitions that have surrounded him, and the fact that he is only going into his third season at the age of 23.
A virtually full-time starter as a rookie, making 15 starts in 16 games and logging 966 defensive snaps, he notched one interception and a fumble recovery in 2018. Last season, while he finished second to Devin Bush with 105 tackles, he failed to make any kind of splash play. No sacks, no forced fumbles or recoveries, no interceptions. Just three passes defensed and two tackles for loss.
His teammates aren’t fretting about him and his development, however, especially as it concerns his ability to create the ultimate splash play: the pick and return. Said Joe Haden earlier today, “I think ‘Rell, he’s just getting more and more comfortable back there. He’s doing a lot of ball drills. He’s been getting a hand on the ball a lot this camp. I can tell he’s been working on it. He has all the physical attributes. I think this year’s gonna be a really good year for him”.
While we haven’t seen Edmunds with the ball in his hands much, when he does have the ball, he knows how to run with it, making him a dangerous player who could be a threat to return an interception for a touchdown, once he gets one.
There is no reason to assume, of course, that he can’t get those interceptions. We didn’t see the development timeline in his second season that we were hoping for, perhaps in part due to the fact that the free safety position was unstable throughout the offseason, leaving him with more responsibilities, but there is still plenty of time for him to develop, as the youngest starter on the team on either side of the ball.
And that’s a fact that perhaps we don’t pay much attention to. Every other player on the team, including JuJu Smith-Schuster, who will have a prominent role this season is younger than is Edmunds. He won’t even turn 24 this year. And yet he’s already logged over 2000 defensive snaps played. Yes, it’s time for him to start having a larger impact, but there’s no reason to despair and doubt whether or not it’s within him to achieve that.