The much anticipated Pittsburgh Steelers first round pick has been made, and wow did it take us by surprise. The selection of Virginia Tech safety Terrell Edmunds was a shock to most everyone watching, or analyzing the draft. It is however, consistent on the way Kevin Colbert has been drafting in the first round over the past few years. The emphasis on ultra-athletic players has been a trend since the team got burned by the Jarvis Jones selection in 2013. The question now becomes how effective is this new strategy the Steelers are implementing.
Certainly this new found philosophy started out with a bang when the team drafted Ryan Shazier in 2014. As good as Shazier had turned out to be, the downside of relying so much on just pure athleticism started to show through. Missed tackles and over running plays plagued the Steelers linebacker throughout his career. If not for his just being a freak athlete, Shazier would not have been able to overcome those shortcomings. Next came Bud Dupree and Artie Burns who tested extremely well and fit the mold Pittsburgh now covets. However, they are a notch bellow Ryan Shazier in terms of athleticism, and both have struggled to overcome their other deficiencies. Obviously it’s too early to call how the TJ Watt selection will turn out. His first year was promising, but it showed no signs of the kind of game-changing player this defense so desperately needs. Terrell Edmunds fits this category almost to a tee. His pSPARQ score was the second best of any safety in the draft. Higher than both Minkah Fitzpatrick or Derwin James.
One thing is painfully clear with the new type of players the Steelers now target in the first round. They all can fit into the term “high variance” players. In other words from week to week they can go from looking fantastic, to down right awful. In turn, the entire defense now has taken on that look. There are weeks when the Steelers defense looks capable of being Super Bowl caliber, then there’s weeks like the Jacksonville playoff game. The coaching staff has been unable to get this defense and all it’s uber-athletes to play consistently thus far. How long it’s sustainable to add the same type of players to a a group of coaches who can’t get the most out of them is the question.
So to say that Steelers’ management has a lot at stake with the Terrell Edmunds pick is an understatement. The team is all in on this new way of thinking. Edmunds is just the latest in a five year run of drafting combine wonders. The defense has not shown signs of major improvement over this time however. If the coaching staff can not overcome these high variance players, Tomlin and Colbert will have wasted five prime years of Ben Roethlisberger’s career. That’s something they both may not survive in the long run.