Steelers on the hot seat this season? Terrell Edmunds

The Oxford Dictionary describes “hot seat” as the following: the position of a person who carries full responsibility for something, including facing criticism or being answerable for decisions or actions. In this ongoing series our contributors will select a current member of the Steelers organization and ask the simple question: are they on the hot seat in 2020?

Typically, a hot seat article has focused on a player in a contract year or at danger of losing their job.

While I expect Terrell Edmunds to be a Steeler in 2021, he lands on this “exclusive” list as for him, 2020 is a contract year of sorts.

All NFL rookies can sign a maximum four-year contract upon entering the league. However, for players selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, they can be optioned for a fifth season – a franchise tag of sorts for a rookie contract. The fifth-year option, as it’s called, also includes a substantial increase in pay for the player optioned.

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As the Steelers first-round pick in 2018, Terrell Edmunds enters his third season a pro. But it’s important to note that, if the Steelers chose to exercise their fifth-year option on Edmunds, they must make their intentions known next year, during the 2021 offseason.

Therefore, 2020 could be a make-or-break year for Edmunds’ future in Pittsburgh: that’s why he lands on the “hot seat”.

While I feel Edmunds has been fine, and was tossed into a trial by fire by starting the first game of his rookie season (which was unplanned due to an injury to veteran Morgan Burnett), he must still prove he can be a long-term solution for the Steelers going forward. Currently, Edmunds is paired with to an All-Pro, Minkah Fitzpatrick, who has overshadowed everyone on the secondary (and perhaps all but T.J. Watt on the Steelers defense).

With a much-improved secondary including Pro Bowler Joe Haden and underrated cornerbacks Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton, it’s easy for Edmunds to look like the weakest link – even if he’s not.

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If you think about past Steelers secondaries, the strong safety position has been manned by a platoon of players since the retirement of Hall of Famer Troy Polamalu. A number of safeties, strong or free, have included names such as Shamarko Thomas, Will Allen, Sean Davis, Kameron Kelly, and Mike Mitchell.

I may have even missed a name or two in that illustrious list, but my point is this: Edmunds has outplayed many of his predecessors.

Yet, that may not be enough if he has an average 2020 season. With other player contracts soon due (Watt being one of them) the team could opt-out of Edmunds’ pricier fifth-year option, up until it’s valid in 2022 actually. But for Edmunds to secure his spot, 2020 becomes a pivotal season.

Should the Steelers pass on his fifth-year option, and given their current lack of depth at the safety position, it would seem prudent that they could draft Edmunds’ successor in 2021 or 2022.

In order to prove he belongs on what is becoming one of, if not the league’s most dominant defense, Terrell Edmunds will have to silence his critics in the coming weeks, and cool off what could become a very hot seat heading into next season.

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