For many, the biggest concern with the Pittsburgh Steelers entering the 2020 season as far as the defense goes was the player whom they deemed to be their weakest link: young starting strong safety Terrell Edmunds, the team’s first-round draft pick in 2018 who started 31 games in his first two seasons.
The 23-year old is arguably off to the best start of his career so far in 2020, however, and has already set a career-high in passes defensed for an entire season, now with five through six games. He had two on Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, including a big one in the end zone, though he is still looking for his first interception (or takeaway in general) since his rookie year.
“I think he has improved quite a bit”, defensive coordinator Keith Butler said of his starting strong safety, via transcript, in speaking with reporters earlier today. “He’s been playing very well for us. He is confident in what he is doing. He is anticipating where he should be and that allows him to play faster and play quicker. Yeah, he’s improved quite a bit”.
When originally drafted, the plan for Edmunds was for him to sit and wait. The Steelers signed veteran Morgan Burnett in free agency, but he was not healthy at the start of the season, so Edmunds started the opener and Burnett rotated in. The latter started the following week, with Edmunds rotating in, but after Burnett was injured in that game, the rookie would start every other game of his career to date.
Over the course of 38 games played, Edmunds has recorded 208 career tackles, including four for loss, with two sacks, six quarterback hits, one interception, one fumble recovery, and 12 passes defensed. He has 25 tackles so far this season, including one for loss.
According to Pro Football Reference, he has allowed 13 receptions so far on 23 targets for 169 yards in coverage, for a passing rating allowed of 79.8. By their reckoning, he has only been charged for one missed tackle on the season to date.
There some who have been ready to dump Edmunds since his rookie season. He was declared a bust as soon as he was drafted because some analysts projected him to go in the third round, even though post-draft analysis showed that teams rated him much higher and that he may well have been taken in the first if the Steelers didn’t take him anyway.
He was 21 years old when he was drafted. It’s not unreasonable for a young player to continue to develop in his first few seasons, and sometimes we seem to forget that. The pressures on the team to win now weigh in here, but the Steelers’ patience with him is now being rewarded with improved and solid play. There’s certainly still room for further growth, but they understand the value of what they are getting from him now.