When it comes to first-round picks in the NFL, teams are given three seasons of evaluation before deciding to pick up their player's fifth-year option. Three years is also the magic number typically given by fans/experts before labeling a player as a “bust.”
With Pittsburgh Steelers safety Terrell Edmunds entering the third year of his career, 2020 looks to be a pivotal season for the Virginia Tech product. In a first-round that also featured safeties such as teammate Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Derwin James, Edmunds has undoubtedly fallen short of the billing through two seasons.
That's not to label Edmunds a bust already, however. The potential is obviously there, and perhaps that is what's most frustrating for Steelers fans. Edmunds' physical profile and athleticism coming out of the draft is what initially enticed the team, and through two seasons of play, Edmunds has flashed moments of being worth the first-round pick.
To his credit, Edmunds has remained healthy for the start of his career, and as stated time and time again, the most important ability is availability. Edmunds has yet to miss a game through two seasons, and has started all but one since arriving in Pittsburgh. 2019 also saw Edmunds rack up over 100 tackles (71 solo), a feat that was last accomplished by a safety when Ryan Clark had 104 tackles in 2013.
Edmunds can absolutely be classified as a "box safety", a safety who mostly plays near the line of scrimmage and excels in tackling/run support. His lack of skills in coverage, however, has left a lot to be desired heading into 2020.
Yours truly hasn't been shy about making that known.
With Fitzpatrick now fully accustomed to the Steelers defense, perhaps the burden will be lessened on Edmunds needing to make plays in the back end. However, the Steelers utilize two deep safeties frequently, which leads to Edmunds not being off the hook in coverage.
It's a steep learning curve as a young player in the league, especially when you're thrown to the wolves immediately. There's hope that Edmunds now has his feet underneath him.
Will Edmunds see a late surge akin to Bud Dupree? When it comes to Edmunds, there are two schools of belief surrounding his future: Either you believe Edmunds' best days are ahead of him, or that he simply isn't cut to play in the league.
Regardless of your current opinion on Edmunds, he's set up for success heading into this season with an enormous amount of help on the defensive side of the football. Talented secondary players such as Joe Haden and Steven Nelson (with Minkah Fitzpatrick) along with a legitimate front seven will allow Edmunds the opportunity to be placed in the best positions to make plays.
2020 is not a make or break year for Edmunds, yet we cannot understate it's importance. It's hard for the Steelers to top their defensive efforts from last season, still an improved Edmunds would pay dividends in multiple facets.
Edmunds has his fair share of critics (including myself), and with all the personal tools and supporting cast to his favor, the upcoming season presents itself as the perfect stage to silence every ounce of doubt.