It’s rare for any team to have a pair of first-round safeties, let alone a pair from the same draft class, but the Pittsburgh Steelers managed to pull that off by trading for Minkah Fitzpatrick during the 2019 season after having used their first-round selection the previous year on Terrell Edmunds.
The two have put together 30 starts as a unit since then, and are probably one of the better safety tandems in football, combining for six interceptions last year. Fitzpatrick gets all the notoriety, a two-time first-team All-Pro, but he has consistently stood up for his teammate as well.
Back in December, he told reporters that Edmunds was having “an underrated season” and that he should get more respect. A month later, he expressed his thoughts on the duo’s ability to play together for a long time. Yesterday, he explained why he feels they work so well together.
“We’re both players that are willing to do what’s best for the team”, he told reporters after OTA practices. “We both could be all over the field doing whatever. We’re good athletes, but what’s best for the team is what we’ve been doing. It’s just both of us buying into that, and playing to our strengths and our team’s strengths is what makes us a good pair”.
Edmunds started 15 games last season, missing only the season finale due to injury, though one wonders if he would have played if it were significant for their postseason fate. He recorded 68 tackles with a sack, two interceptions, and eight passes defensed.
In his first full season as a Steeler, Fitzpatrick finished the year with 79 tackles, four interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, 11 passes defensed, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. He has produced 12 takeaways in his first 30 games as a Steeler, including seven in 2019.
Earlier this offseason, the team elected to pick up Fitzpatrick’s fifth-year option, which was merely a procedural move and a prelude to a long-term contract extension next year. However, they opted against doing the same for Edmunds, who is now entering the final year of his contract. Fitzpatrick expressed his disappointment in that decision yesterday as well.
“I wish they did”, pick up Edmunds’ option, he said. “He’s a great player. I love playing with him. Whatever happens, happens. It’s up to people upstairs. We’re going to go out to season and play our best. He’s a great player. He’s a hard player. I love playing with him. So like I said, we’re going to go out there this year and just play hard no matter what”.
Many Steelers fans assumed that they would pick up the option. They didn’t, marking just the third time since the fifth-year option came into effect in 2011 they opted against it. The pair may now be entering their final season together, though the team could still work out a new contract with Edmunds, even an extension later this year, though I wouldn’t call it likely.