Continuity is something that’s easy to downplay when you don’t have it, but also easy to talk up when you do. Odds are its true value lies somewhere in the middle of trivial and indispensable, but it’s generally better to have than not. Especially on a personal level, which is why Pittsburgh Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick was thrilled to see Terrell Edmunds re-sign with the team.
“Yeah, it was really important for me to have TE back, because that’s been my guy for the past three seasons”, the fifth-year veteran said of Edmunds. “Having him back and just keeping that chemistry in the secondary is really big”.
Both were drafted in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Fitzpatrick 11th overall and Edmunds 28th. The former, of course, was originally drafted by the Miami Dolphins. The Steelers dished out a first-round pick two games into the 2019 season in order to acquire him, and he’s been running mates with Edmunds ever since.
Fitzpatrick has made the Pro Bowl and was named first-team All-Pro twice during that time, while Edmunds’ play has largely been undistinguished, though to his credit, he has recorded multiple interceptions in each of the past two seasons, and he had eight tackles for loss last year.
Edmunds has missed only one game in his career, as has Fitzpatrick, so the two have made 47 combined starts together since first pairing up, including the postseason. That’s a good few thousand snaps’ worth of muscle memory and tangible, irreplaceable familiarity.
Still, the Steelers did not place tremendous value on it. They only re-signed him to a one-year contract after declining his fifth-year option. While it does pay him just north of $2.5 million for the season, it also comes with a reduced cap hit of less than half the price, under $1.2 million.
Edmunds hung out there in free agency, fielding offers from other teams, for more than a month, before re-signing with Pittsburgh shortly before the draft. Shortly after the draft, they acquired one of the other veteran free agent safeties they had reportedly been targeting, Damontae Kazee, one a one-year, veteran-minimum deal.
The prevailing assumption is that Edmunds will remain the team’s starting strong safety—he is certainly under that impression, and Fitzpatrick appears to be as well—though Kazee is also a very experienced starter with over 3,000 snaps played on defense over the past five years.
But Fitzpatrick is as big a variable as any. If he plays better and is more comfortable with Edmunds at the back end, it’s hard to fathom any coaching staff making that change for a journeyman alternative.