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Why 2020 is a make or break year for Terrell Edmunds

It is time for the first round pick to start playing like one...

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Terrell Edmunds is entering his third season, which will most likely determine his long-term future with the Steelers. Many draft experts questioned the Steelers when they selected the former Hokie in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Some said he could have been had in the third or fourth round of that draft. Three years later, Edmunds is entrenched in the starting lineup of arguably the best defense in the NFL.

Edmunds was not supposed to play a lot in his rookie season at the outset. An early training camp injury to free-agent acquisition Morgan Burnett altered the Steelers’ plans for the rookie. Burnett was good to go for Week 1, but it was Edmunds who started at safety and never looked back.

All things considered, Edmunds’ first season was a success. He gained valuable experience playing significant snaps throughout the year and certainly got better as the season went on. His second season, on the surface, seemed to be a regression, but I think there is more to it than just his overall play. Through the first three weeks of the season, he was paired with three different safeties. Former AAF safety Kam Kelly, now a member of the Washington Football Team Sean Davis and eventual All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. Minkak took Pittsburgh by storm and catapulted the Steelers to a top defense again.

As the 2019 season went along, many pointed to Edmunds as the weak link of the dominant defense. I don’t think that was a fair assessment at the time, and still don’t today. Does Edmunds need to continue to work on his craft and improve? Certainly. I am sure he would love to have some plays back, they all do. The touchdown against the Jets in that critical loss in Week 16 still stings, but that happens in professional football. I think Edmunds, who is currently dealing with an injury in camp, is poised to have a big season.

Edmunds is one of the team’s better tacklers on the defense and there is no reason to believe that will change. The Steelers led the NFL in takeaways last year, but Edmunds did not have one throughout the entire season. This certainly has to change, and he knows it. I expect him to get involved in the takeaway party this year now that he has had a chance to settle in playing next to Fitzpatrick and company.

When you think of the great safety tandem of Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu, know Edmunds and Fitzpatrick are not on their level yet. Clark and Polamalu won a Super Bowl and played in another, but one of the biggest reasons they were so good together is the comfort and trust they had for each other. Polamalu gives a lot of credit to his success to Clark for covering for him when he would jump a route or freelance. Now that Minkah and Edmunds have played together for 14 games, and, despite the lack of preseason/off-season, I expect them to have a new comfortable level with each other.

Towards the latter portion of the season, teams would not throw towards Fitzgerald at all, and teams will surely be aware where he this year. That is going to create more opportunities for plays on the ball for Edmunds. I understand some players just have a knack for the ball and have tremendous ball skills. Unfortunately, Edmunds, to this point, has not shown that. Ryan Clark didn’t have great ball skills either, but he made the plays that were there for him to make. That’s all Edmunds needs to do to take this defense to the next level, and he no longer will be deemed the weak link, but more so an integral part of the secondary.