Terrell Edmunds may be a second-year player on the Pittsburgh Steelers roster, but on social media he still is prone to making a rookie mistake.
Edmunds admittedly erred earlier this week when he liked a tweet from Antonio Brown, whose “Two face” post was viewed as a jab at quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
The 22-year-old strong safety acknowledged hitting the “like” button, although at the time he didn’t know exactly what he was liking. He was unaware that Brown’s tweet was made in an apparent response to Roethlisberger’s TV interview in which he apologized to the former Steelers wide receiver.
“I didn’t see what was going on. I didn’t see the whole picture of everything until people started tagging me in it,” Edmunds said Thursday after the conclusion of practice. “I didn’t mean anything by it. I would never put down anyone on my team or anyone I previously played with. People just took it out of proportion.”
Edmunds began trending on social media for all the wrong reasons, with Twitter users believing the young safety had backstabbed his quarterback.
“Every guy on the team knows I didn’t mean anything by it,” Edmunds said.
One of the players Edmunds immediately reached out to was guard Ramon Foster, the second-oldest player on the team. Foster didn’t get the message until four hours later.
“He was probably going crazy,” Foster said. “I know there was nothing behind it. He took it on like, ‘That’s not me.’ I believe him until he proves me otherwise.”
Foster relayed Edmunds’ concerns to Roethlisberger.
“Ben was cool,” Foster said. “It was hitting the ‘like’ button, that was all.”
The Steelers are more concerned with what Edmunds does on the field to help them return to the playoffs after they missed the postseason for the first time in five seasons. In his second year, Edmunds will be tasked with making the type of improvement running back James Conner, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and outside linebacker T.J. Watt did in their sophomore NFL seasons.
“I’m trying to develop into the prominent player that everyone needs,” Edmunds said. “That means coming out, working hard and getting better.”
As the team’s first-round draft choice last year, Edmunds was expected to be the understudy to veteran Morgan Burnett, who was signed in free agency. But Burnett battled injuries in training camp, and Edmunds started the season opener in Cleveland, then 14 of the next 15 games.
Edmunds finished with 55 tackles, one sack, one interception and four passes defensed. Coach Mike Tomlin talked at midseason about limiting Edmunds’ snaps so as to not wear down the rookie, yet Edmunds played 92.5 percent of all defensive plays. Only free safety Sean Davis logged more time on defense.
“In the moment it’s like, ‘We’re here, we’ve got to do it because you’re the next man up,’ ” Edmunds said. “You’ve got to step up, you’ve got to go in and they don’t expect a downfall from anybody’s play. You’ve got to put the big-boy pants on and then go out and help the team the best way you can.”
Edmunds enters his second year of offseason workouts with confidence and experience he lacked as a rookie. The Steelers cut Burnett and didn’t draft a safety with any of their nine picks, a sign they are confident with Edmunds’ development.
“The game has slowed down for him,” slot corner Mike Hilton said. “He’s being more vocal, he’s making more plays. He’s a guy that is really trying to up his game. He knows that in the back end, a lot is going to be on his shoulders.”
The defense in general and the secondary in particularly has been tasked with creating more turnovers this season. Only two NFL teams had fewer than the Steelers’ 15 takeaways last year, and the eight interceptions tied a franchise low.
“It’s catching more interceptions, getting more comfortable with having the ball in our hands,” Edmunds said. “There’s an emphasis that when the ball is on the ground, we’ve got to scoop it up. It’s going after the ball, constantly having the ball in your hands regardless if it’s a pass breakup, scooping it up or catching it and taking it back for six.
“It’s a mentality that when the ball is in the air, it is ours.”