PITTSBURGH — There was a time when it might not have seemed weird that Trey Edmunds recorded his first career NFL interception in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 17-12 win over the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.
After all, Edmunds came out of Dan River High School in the Class of 2012 as a four-star outside linebacker, the No. 7 player in the state of Virginia and the No. 16 outside linebacker in the country.
Committed to Virginia Tech, Edmunds was expected to go play for legendary Hokies defensive coordinator Bud Foster, who has coached over 50 players that have gone on to be drafted into the NFL, including three Pro Bowlers.
But Edmunds also played running back at Dan River, and was a good one. Good enough that a roster crunch at that position led the Hokies to play him in all 12 games as a true freshman on that side of the ball.
Edmunds averaged over four yards per carry and never looked back. When he lost his starting job after a pair of injuries, he transferred from Virginia Tech to his father’s alma mater, Maryland.
If offense instincts can be handed down from one generation to the next, Trey got his from his father, Ferrell Edmunds, who was a two-time Pro Bowl tight end for the Miami Dolphins and also played for the Seattle Seahawks in a six-year NFL career.
After college, Trey caught on with the New Orleans Saints and then landed in Pittsburgh in 2018 after younger brother Terrell had been drafted to play safety in the first round.
Solidly a running back at this point in time, the abilities that once made Trey a four-star prospect at linebacker have now made him an outstanding special teams player. It was in that role that Trey hauled in his first interception since high school on Sunday night.
Los Angeles punter Johnny Hekker lined up to throw a fake punt, and Edmunds dropped into a zone. When gunner David Long, Jr cut to the inside, Hekker led him just a bit too far and the ball came straight to Edmunds for his first career interception.
ALL DAY TREY!
— Maryland Football (@TerpsFootball) November 10, 2019
Edmunds became the first NFL player to play running back and record an interception in a game since Kenny Gamble of the Kansas City Chiefs on Sept. 11, 1988.
So it definitely came as a surprise. But the Steelers were not surprised that Hekker lined up to throw the ball. One of the NFL’s best punters, he’s also become adept at faking it, as well, and it was something the Steelers paid special attention to coming into their game with the Rams.
“They got into that formation earlier in the game and that got out of it and punted it,” Edmunds said. “We knew that he was capable of making that throw. We’d seem him do it numerous times. He can sling it, with guys that can get open. It was just a matter of if he was going to do it and us being ready.”
Edmunds and the rest of the Steelers were ready, and that’s how a running back ends up with an interception. Not only is that Trey’s first pick since he suited up for Dan River, he tied his brother Trey’s career interception total with one — something that might get brought up at the Edmunds family Thanksgiving celebration.
“He needs to pick one,” Trey said with a smile.
NBC’s Mike Florio Predicts Dim Outlook for JuJu Smith-Schuster in Free Agency
Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio is not so sure Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is going to get the pay day he believes he deserves.
Florio joined The PM Team on 93.7 The Fan on Friday, and painted a dim picture of Smith-Schuster’s free agency prospects.
“If Juju wants to be paid like a No. 1 wide receiver, he’s going to be waiting a long, long time,” Florio said.
Smith-Schuster has expressed a desire to remain in Pittsburgh, but their dire salary cap situation had a made a continuation seemingly impossible.
Now that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has signed a new contract and provided the club additional financial flexibility, there may be a path for Smith-Schuster to return. Still, there will not be enough money available to pay him like one of the league’s elite wideouts.
If that is what Smith-Schuster wants in Pittsburgh, he may be in for a rude awakening as Florio predicts.
Smith-Schuster led the Steelers with 97 receptions in 2020, while also tallying 831 yards and nine touchdowns.
Selected in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft out of Southern California, Smith-Schuster has 293 receptions, 3,565 yards and 24 touchdowns as a Steeler. He was selected to his first and only Pro Bowl in 2018.
Steelers Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada on Run Game, Roethlisberger
Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada has spoken publicly for the first time since his promotion in late January.
Canada joined the latest edition of The Standard, the Steelers’ behind-the-scenes web series, and discussed a number of topics, including fixing the run game, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his offensive philosophy.
There is no denying Pittsburgh produced the least successful rushing attack in football a season ago, averaging just 84.4 yards per game and 3.6 yards per attempt.
Canada recognizes the Steelers need to improve significantly on the ground, a mandate he implied came down from Team President Art Rooney II.
“He’s made it very clear that that’s got to get better,” Canada said. “When all of us realized that we didn’t get it done we wanted to with our running game and all of who are here are part of that. And we’ve got to improve upon it in a multitude of ways and we’re certainly focused on it. We’re globally studying who’s running the ball well. We’ve always believed in running the football anywhere that I’ve been. You win up front. I believe that. We believe that. I know Coach Tomlin believes that.”
Not only will the Steelers have to better impose their will in the trenches, but Canada knows they will also have to remove the predictability that plagued them last season, especially in the passing game.
“You have to be able to run the football when they know you’re going to run it,” Canada added. “And you have to be able to throw the football when they know you’re going to throw it.”
Canada also gushed over Roethlisberger, who the Steelers announced will be returning for the 2021 season on a one-year contract Thursday.
“He’s such a great competitor. He competes at everything he does and his competitive drive is so strong and so awesome to be around no matter what we’re doing,” Canada said of Roethlisberger.
He also praised the 39-year-old’s accuracy, which he believes sets Roethlisberger apart from his peers.
“And then just his accuracy. And I’ve said this to one of my buddies who’s a quarterback coach somewhere else. Young quarterbacks, I wish there was some way for them to be here and watch how he practices putting the ball in certain spots. It’s such a unique talent that he’s able to do it.”
While Roethlisberger’s new deal has provided the Steelers some much needed financial flexibility, they will still undoubtedly have some tough departures once free agency begins in earnest.
Regardless which players do or do not remain in Pittsburgh heading into the 2021 season, Canada insists his offense will be multi-dimensional and cater to whatever personnel the Steelers have on the offensive side.
“We are going through and looking at the foundation of our offense. And building an offense that will be conducive to whatever talent that we have,” Canada said. “I don’t believe you have a certain system that works and this is all we’re going to do and we have to have the players for that. We have the players we have each year. Our job is to score more points than the team we play on each Sunday.”
Steelers Sign Center J.C. Hassenauer on One-Year Deal
The Pittsburgh Steelers have signed center J.C. Hassenauer to a one-year deal, first reported by ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.
Steelers sign center J.C. Hassenauer, an exclusive rights free agent, to a one-year deal, per source.— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) March 4, 2021
An exclusive right free agent, Hassenauer was almost a lock to return to Pittsburgh in 2021. His new deal with the Steelers is worth $780,000.
Hassenauer proved a vital piece along the Steelers’ offensive line a season ago, seeing action in 15 games and making four starts. He was on the field for 23% of the team’s offensive stats, while also appearing on 50 special teams plays.
Prior to Pittsburgh, Hassenauer signed with the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent in 2018, spending the first seven weeks of the season on their practice squad.
He played for the Birmingham Iron of the Alliance of American Football in 2019.
Hassenauer played his college ball at Alabama. He made just three career starts for the Crimson Tide, with his final coming in the 2018 College Football Playoff national championship game, a 26-23 overtime win over Georgia.
Hassenauer’s agent Blake Baratz confirmed the signing on Twitter on Thursday.