Though it’s not clear to whom, it seems Terrell Edmunds isn’t returning to Pittsburgh in 2023, as he penned a farewell post yesterday morning. While Damontae Kazee has re-signed, he’s not a 1,000-snap box safety, leaving a vacancy at the position. Drafting a replacement is one avenue, Alabama’s Brian Branch and Jordan Battle are popular names, but the overall class is weak. Feeling obligated to taking Branch at No. 17 is a dangerous way to approach things.
So if the team wants to explore a veteran option and get close to a 1:1 replacement for Edmunds, Taylor Rapp is the best choice left. Really, he feels like the only choice.
Rapp is similar to Edmunds in a couple of ways. There’s an intriguing blend of youth and experience that both have. Edmunds is 26 with 75 career starts. Rapp just turned 25 with 48 (and 57 career games played). Both work better closer to the line of scrimmage. Edmunds is a true box strong safety, playing well last year while spending 35% of his time in the box. Coming out of Washington, we profiled Rapp as a classic run-and-hit player. From our 2019 scouting report, here’s just one example of the hits he’s capable of dishing out.
Rapp was the Los Angeles Rams’ second-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, 61st overall, and started 10 games as a rookie, finishing third on the team with 100 tackles. Over the last two seasons, Rapp – like Edmunds – has been extremely durable, playing in all possible 33 regular season games. And his run defense has been strong, PFF’s 9th-ranked qualifying run defending safety last year.
Unlike Edmunds, he’s brought some playmaking, intercepting nine career passes to Edmunds’ five and Edmunds has one more season under his belt than Rapp.
Rapp wasn’t retained by the Rams and hit free agency this offseason. He’s reportedly garnered some interest, visiting with the New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals, but hasn’t agreed to a deal with any team. Maybe that means he wants more money than the market is offering; safeties have a hard time getting paid. But eventually, he’s going to have to take a deal. And the longer he waits, the more that price tag is going to go down.
An Ahkello Witherspoon/Levi Wallace type of deal in the range of two years, $8 million that’s a bit backloaded might be the ticket for a guy like Rapp. He could be the team’s starting strong safety, playing in the box about as much as Edmunds did, and freeing up Damontae Kazee in the role that’s best for him, the sixth defender in dime packages who can supply the versatility lost from Cam Sutton.
Rapp isn’t going to be a high-end safety. But he’d fill the Edmunds role well as someone who can play the run and be available. That was Edmunds’ most underrated skillset. Logging snaps, being durable, the team rarely having to worry about a Plan B. Replacing Edmunds means replacing a ton of snaps over the past five years. Signing Rapp doesn’t mean the Steelers can’t or shouldn’t draft a safety, but they shouldn’t go into the draft with the void they have there now.