2020 is a big season for Pittsburgh Steelers safety Terrell Edmunds as the team’s former first-round draft pick out of Virginia Tech will have the decision made on the fifth-year option on his rookie contract late in the spring of 2021. If the decision on Edmunds needed to be made today, the Steelers likely wouldn’t pick up his fifth-year option because of his lack of splash plays made in his first two seasons.
On Tuesday, Steelers defensive backs coach Teryl Austin was indirectly asked about Edmunds’ lack of playmaking so far during his NFL career. Specifically, Austin was asked what he thinks needs to happen in 2020 to get Edmunds around the football more in hopes that he’ll start making splash plays.
“I think he knows that, and we know that he’s a good football player,” Austin said of Edmunds on Tuesday. “We’ve just got to get him a little bit more ball production. And as we get going here [in training camp] in terms catching the ball, getting around the ball, stripping the ball, fumble recoveries, all those things, we’ll just continue to practice them. And I’m sure they’ll come because the kid works hard. He’s around the ball, he’s always available, he’s out there every snap and those things will come.
“So, the biggest thing that we’ve got to do is just continue to work on it and when he gets near the ball to just to make sure he has that production that we need, because that’s really the only thing that was lacking out of his game last year was the fact that you didn’t see very much ball production. But other than that, the guy’s always around the ball, he’s a good player, he’s a good leader, he’s a great teammate.”
Over the course of the last two seasons, his first two in the NFL, Edmunds has logged the most defensive snaps played by a Steelers player so that’s a testament to his availability. However, Edmunds has registered just one interception, seven passes defensed, one sack and one fumble recovery in the 32 games that he’s played in to date. Those numbers need to start increasing in 2020.
The last two seasons, Edmunds hasn’t had to play a single-high free safety role much and that’s not too surprising with 2018 being his rookie year and 2019 including him being a strong safety compliment of newcomer safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who went on to have his first All-Pro season after being acquired by the Steelers via a Week 3 trade.
Will Edmunds get more shots at making deeper secondary plays on the football in 2020 with Fitzpatrick, the team’s primary free safety, being a lot more comfortable in the defense? According to Austin on Tuesday, it sounds like Edmunds and Fitzpatrick might move around a little more in the defense than they did last year.
“Our main mode of operation is not going to be Minkah down around the box and Terrell Edmunds in the middle of the field, because that’s not a good plan for us,” Austin said on Tuesday. “But I think you can pick and choose your spots to move people around and get him into different spots to facilitate maybe getting Minkah around the ball, or putting him in some spots that the offense isn’t used to.”
While Edmunds did register 30 total stops in 2019, he also missed 12 tackles, according to Pro Football Focus, so that’s one area of his game he’ll need to get cleaned up a little in 2020.
With Edmunds now being in his third NFL season and in his second with Fitzpatrick in the secondary with him, it’s hard to imagine him not making a few more plays on the football in 2020 than he has made in the past and especially with the amount of talent this Steelers defense has.
If Edmunds can indeed make several more plays on the football in 2020, it could be the one final element that goes about turning an incredibly good Steelers defense into an elite one. It could also result in the Steelers picking up Edmunds’ fifth-year option roughly eight months from now.