2020 SCU Awards: Steelers’ most-improved player

Steel City Underground presents the 5th annual SCU Awards. Our panel of contributors all voted on various awards for the Steelers based on their performances in 2020. Comment and let us know if you agree or disagree with our winners and nominees.

Steel City Underground awards the “Most Improved Player” honors to the player on the Steelers’ roster who showed the most improvement during the 2020 season: Terrell Edmunds.

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There were certainly a number of viable options for this award considering the Steelers as a team made many improvements on both sides of the ball after a .500 record in 2019. Notable candidates that stood out and made significant strides in their play included offensive lineman, Chukwuma Okorafor who stepped into a starting role after a season ending injury to Zach Banner. Wide receivers, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson were also considered heavily for this award after boosting their numbers from the previous season.

In the end, there was one clear cut choice for this award simply because of his statistical improvement from the 2019 season. Edmunds may not have jumped off the screen this season, but he did make many adjustments to his game that put him in position to make plays for the Steelers’ defense.

The third-year player out of Virginia Tech received much criticism after the 2019 season, which was expected due to his being one of the weaker links on a star-studded defense. Not to mention the fact that the early acquisition of All-Pro safety, Minkah Fitzpatrick, put a lot of eyes on the Pittsburgh secondary.

Posting a PFF Coverage grade of 58.3 in his sophomore season, Edmunds was often exposed as a liability as opposing quarterbacks connected on 72% of the passes thrown within his coverage. There were issues to fix in the coverage front for the young safety entering the 2020 season but improvements were made as Edmunds looked more comfortable in all aspects of the game.

Through 15 games played in the 2020 season, Edmunds numbers backed up the offseason work he put in as his PFF Coverage grade jumped to 76.0. As you would expect, his allowed completion percentage dropped significantly as well, down to 55.6%. Edmunds was also amongst the team leaders in tackles with 68, only missing 8.1% of his attempted tackles.

The standout  game for the young safety came from a Week 11 matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Edmunds provided two big time interceptions for the Steelers defense, allowing just one completion in the game. Pittsburgh won the game handily; it was a great showcase of talent for Edmunds displaying he belonged on a turnover-hungry Steelers defense.

In year four, Edmunds still has a lot to prove in the Pittsburgh secondary. At just 24 years old, he has plenty of time to continue to groom his game and certainly has a great running mate in Fitzpatrick. With availability being his best ability throughout his previous two seasons, Edmunds has made the strides necessary to become a better player and ultimately earn the honor of “Most Improved Player” for the Steelers in 2020.

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