Terrell Edmunds and Devin Bush have both signed elsewhere in free agency this offseason. That means that six of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ seven first-round draft picks between 2013 and 2019 will have seen six or fewer seasons with the team that drafted them, the only exception being T.J. Watt. The huge caveat is Ryan Shazier, who suffered a career-ending injury.
Of the others, none have yet successfully revitalized themselves elsewhere. Jarvis Jones in 2013 did not last long after his time in Pittsburgh. Bud Dupree had two seasons with the Tennessee Titans on a big-money deal, but was released after two frustrating years. Artie Burns is currently a free agent, but has done little outside of his time here. Edmunds wants to be the first to really successfully shift perceptions about who he is as a player.
“I guess the next step is just being an Eagle”, he said in his first press conference with his new team via the Eagles’ website. “All old narratives can change now because you’re in a new spot. You got a chance to make a new impression. You got a chance to put everything out there and really buy into the culture and go out there with new teammates and do whatever you have to do”.
Since the moment he entered the league, Edmunds was dogged by criticisms that he was overdrafted, and that’s a narrative that has shaped his post-exit coverage by the Pittsburgh media. Hindsight has likely proven that he might not have been worth a first-round pick, but that has biased analysis against him for what he does do well.
A 75-game starter over five seasons in Pittsburgh, Edmunds has logged nearly 5000 career defensive snaps, registering 410 tackles with 15 for loss. He has five sacks, nine hits, five interceptions, and 26 passes defensed. He did not record a takeaway in 2022, but many believe it was his best season to date.
The only problem is it’s in many ways impossible for a ‘draft bust’ in the eyes of many to redeem himself in the city that drafted him. Unless Edmunds were suddenly to become a Pro Bowl-level player, the way Dupree did, he could never claim a proper narrative unless he was in a new city.
The Steelers have had some success helping former first-round picks redefine themselves, most notably James Farrior, perhaps, but also to a lesser extent talents such as Tyson Alualu and Darrius Heyward-Bey, who were able to carve out fresh niches for themselves and be valued contributors.
In Philadelphia, Edmunds doesn’t drag his draft baggage with him. His contract details, not yet announced, will surely reflect that. All he has to do is come in and be a solid starter and stable presence at strong safety in an otherwise strong defense. If he can hold up to that basic standard, he can finally be seen as the player he is and not the player his draft status demands he should have been.