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.
Former Steelers DE Keith Willis Joins Edinboro Coaching Staff
Edinboro University has hired former Steelers defensive end Keith Willis as their new assistant head coach and defensive line coach.
Veteran Coach, NFL Player Keith Willis Joins Edinboro Coaching Staff https://t.co/y3x1Ovmgp7— Edinboro Athletics (@BoroAthletics) April 6, 2020
“Keith’s experience both as a player and a coach will make him a tremendous asset to Edinboro University,” head coach Jake Nulph said in a press release. “He is a great man of character and our young men are going to learn so much from him.”
Willis spent ten years in Pittsburgh, and his 59 sacks as a Steeler are the sixth-most in franchise history and the eighth-most ever by an undrafted free agent. The team won two division titles and reached an AFC Championship Game during his tenure.
Willis has nearly 25 years of coaching experience, most recently having served as the defensive line coach for the Tennessee Titans during the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
He has also coached defensive line for the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL for three seasons(2013-15), and spent 18 years in the college ranks at North Carolina State (2007-12), Boston College (2001-06), Cincinnati (1999- 00) and Slippery Rock (1995-98).
Can the Steelers Find an Impact Player at #49?
So where does that leave the team as they head into the 2020 NFL Draft?
Round number two, pick number 49; that’s when the Steelers will get to work trying to acquire an impact player for this season and beyond.
NFL front offices are, for the most part, excellent at evaluating and identifying talent coming out of college. By the time the Steelers draft, roughly half of the NFL franchises will get not one, but two cracks at finding “their” player. Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin in the meantime will just have to wait to see which remaining players on the board fulfill their team’s needs.
So, what kind of player will be available when Colbert and company finally make their selection? Pro Football Reference keeps track of each pick’s value as it relates to trading and impact. The first pick in any draft is worth 3000. The final pick of the first round is worth 590. For the Steelers at #49, the pick is worth 410.
Yes, there will be good players available, but they’re going to have to have the magic touch if they want someone who can step in in year one.
Here are the last 10 years of draft picks from #44-#54, a +/- spread of five from the Steelers’ first pick.
|Pick||Team||Name||Position||Age||Draft Year||All-Pro||Pro Bowl||Starter||Career AV||Games|
|50||MIN||Irv Smith Jr.||TE||21||2019||0||0||0||3||16|
Let’s take a closer look at the players who standout from each year.
2019 NFL Draft Class #44-#54
Two skill position guys, Miles Sanders and A.J. Brown and two centers are the clear choices from this grouping. Brown had over 1,000 yards of receiving and Sanders was a threat on the ground (800+ yards) and through the air (50 catches). Other than that, not much there.
Best player taken after pick #54: D.K. Metcalf, Seattle (Rd. 2, Pick 64)
2018 NFL Draft Class #44-#54
Best player taken after pick #54: Orlando Brown, Baltimore (Rd. 3, Pick 83)
2017 NFL Draft Class #44-#54
Best player taken after pick #54: Alvin Kamara, New Orleans (Rd. 3, Pick 67)
2016 NFL Draft Class #44-#54
The 2016 NFL Draft class was home to the only 2nd round pick in the last ten years to never see the field, Christian Hackenberg. But 2016 also had Michael Thomas, who’s developed into one of the best receivers in the league and Derrick Henry, who finally showed what he can do this past season. Atlanta linebacker Deion Jones also made a Pro Bowl from this group. Center Nick Martin stepped in from day one and been a reliable starter and Jarran Jones has had limited success with the Seahawks.
Best player taken after pick #54: Tyreek Hill, Kansas City (Rd. 5, Pick 165)
2015 NFL Draft Class #44-#54
Eric Kendricks come on down, you’re the only star player from the 2015 group! The Minnesota linebacker has one Pro Bowl and one All-Pro team to his name. Center Mitch Morse has been a solid player since being drafted and has started every game since being drafted for the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills. LA Chargers linebacker Denzel Perryman has started a majority of his games since being drafted.
Best player taken after pick #54: Joe Thunney, New England (Rd. 3, Pick 78)
2014 NFL Draft Class #44-#54
Best player taken after pick #54: Telvin Smith, Jacksonville (Rd. 5, Pick 144)
2013 NFL Draft Class #44-#54
A former Steeler you may recognize, Le’Veon Bell joins Jamie Collins in being two highly talented, All-Pro caliber players from 2013’s grouping. A fair amount of other names on the list have had success including Kiko Alonso, Johnathan Hankins, and Kawann Short. Another former Steeler, Jon Bostic has had three consecutive years starting and had one of his best year as a pro in 2019 with the Redskins.
Best player taken after pick #54: David Bakhtiari, Green Bay (Rd. 4, Pick 109)
2012 NFL Draft Class #44-#54
Bobby Wagner is the stud selection for this group with 5 All-Pro selections, he’s almost guaranteed a future bust in Canton. Alshon Jeffery, Mychal Kendricks and Zach Brown have also had lots of NFL success.
Best player taken after pick #54: Russell Wilson, Seattle (Rd. 3, Pick 75)
2011 NFL Draft Class #44-#54
New Steeler Stefen Wisniewski leads this list, although none from this group has ever made a Pro Bowl.
Best player taken after pick #54: Richard Sherman, Seattle (Rd. 5, Pick 154)
2010 NFL Draft Class #44-#54
Only two players from 2010 are still in the league, Linval Joseph and Carlos Dunlop. Both have had very good careers with each making the Pro Bowl twice.
Best player taken after pick #54: Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh (Rd. 6, Pick 195)
Cam Heyward Calling for Pittsburghers to Stay Home
Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward is urging all Pittsburghers, especially grandmas, to stay home amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Heyward took to The Players’ Tribune Thursday, asking his fellow citizens to continue social distancing and sharing his own experiences during isolation, including his fear when he learned that his 80-year-old grandmother took her weekly trip to the Target in East Liberty amid the national crisis.
“Pittsburgh grandmas love being out ’n’ about, right? So that’s what we’re up against right now, Pittsburgh,” Heyward wrote. “When you come from a tough, hard-nosed town, there’s a tendency to think you’ll always be fine, no matter what.”
In addition to addressing all the “Pittsburgh grandmas,” Heyward also spoke to the younger population, imploring them to stay inside for their elders and reminding them that they themselves are not invincible.
At 6’5’’ and 288 lbs, the nine-year veteran often looks unstoppable. But he gave a reminder that even he is vulnerable if the right precautions are not taken, having suffered from asthma since he was a child.
“This virus is capable of taking down anyone, no matter how big and strong and healthy they might appear to be,” Heyward said.
Heyward ended his piece by offering some words of encouragement, that if Pittsburghers rally together, the city and the nation can get through this.
“If I’ve ever learned anything from all those drives from the airport to downtown, it’s that there’s always light at the end of the tunnel,” Heyward said.
Heyward is entering his tenth season with the Steelers. He has made the Pro Bowl three times, and been selected First-Team All-Pro twice.