A breakout season for Terrell Edmunds could make Steelers defense the best in the NFL

Terrell Edmunds Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Terrell Edmunds Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

Terrell Edmunds was a weak spot on the Steelers defense in 2019. Here’s why his performance in 2020 could help elevate Pittsburgh’s defense to the very best in the league.

The Pittsburgh Steelers got off to a rocky start on the defensive side of the ball last season. Through the first two games of 2019, they surrendered over 30 points per contest. However, the trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick quickly turned things around.

The Steelers began making one splash play after another and eventually surrendered fewer points. With players like T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, Joe Haden, and Steven Nelson, Pittsburgh’s defense proved to be loaded with talent last year.

But despite all of their success, there was still one glaring weak spot in 2019 – strong safety, Terrell Edmunds.

Edmunds, a former first-round pick of the Steelers in 2018, had a promising rookie season and the arrow was pointed up for him entering year two. However, the young safety failed to make the leap forward like most thought that he would.

According to advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference, the Virginia Tech product surrendered 514 receiving yards, 14.3 yards per reception, and 4 touchdowns last season. His 131.6 passer rating allowed was the worst on the team and a far cry from his 83.0 passer rating surrendered as a rookie.

In addition, Edmunds has been awful at taking the ball away. He has had a 29-game drought without an interception (as a starting safety, mind you), and his lone interception came all the way back in Week 3 of his rookie season.

Still, despite all of these knocks against him, there is still hope. Though he is entering his third season, Edmunds turned just 23 years old last month and is still younger than some of the players about to enter the 2020 NFL Draft. Coming into the draft, Edmunds earned a 138.9 SPARQ score and tested above 97 percent of NFL safeties.

Edmunds was also productive as a young player in college – earning 162 tackles, 7 tackles for a loss, and 6 interceptions in his final two seasons at Virginia Tech.

With so many terrific pieces around him on defense, Edmunds needs to live up to his expectations as a former first-round pick with terrific athletic potential. If he can make a leap forward in 2020, there is no telling what the Steelers defense may be able to achieve.

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It took five years for Bud Dupree to start playing like a first-round pick for Pittsburgh. Let’s hope three is the magic number for Edmunds.