2018 NFL Re-Draft Sees Steelers Grab Franchise Tag-Worthy Safety

Terrell Edmunds and Jessie Bates III

Getty Images Terrell Edmunds of the Pittsburgh Steelers (left) and Jessie Bates III of the Cincinnati Bengals (right).

Steelers fans like to complain that Terrell Edmunds was over-drafted, and Gary Davenport of Bleacher Report would seem to agree, as Pittsburgh’s starting strong safety is nowhere to be found in Davenport’s recent redo of the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

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Instead of Terrell Edmunds the Steelers Select Jessie Bates

But in Davenport’s alternate universe, the Steelers still address the safety position, grabbing Wake Forest’s Jesse Bates III at No. 28 overall, a player described as “both more productive and more versatile” than Edmunds.

“Given that he has spent most of his career in Cincinnati as a deep safety, the 6-foot-1, 200-pounder’s tackling output to date is that much more impressive. Bates tallied 100-plus total stops in each of his first three seasons and has averaged a robust 102 tackles per season for his career,” offers Davenport.

“But Bates is more than just a big hitter,” he adds. “He has proved to be quite proficient in coverage as well, notching a passer rating against of less than 80 in two of four seasons,” making reference to a stat provided by Pro Football Reference.

In actuality, Bates, 25, wasn’t selected until much later in the draft, going off the board in the second round at No. 54 overall.

In four seasons with the Bengals, he has started 63 games, recording 408 tackles (289 solo), with 10 interceptions, 35 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

Notably, Cincinnati placed its franchise tag on Bates in early March, which means he stands to earn a salary of $12.911 million in 2022 (as per overthecap.com), though a recent report indicates that he has no plans to sign the tag.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh declined to exercise its fifth-year option on Terrell Edmunds, turning 2021 into a contract year for the Virginia Tech product, who has just five interceptions and 21 passes defensed in 64 career games, which explains why Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has said Edmunds’ “best ability is availability.”

As it turns out, Edmunds didn’t attract much interest as an unrestricted free agent, and he ultimately decided to return to the Steelers on a one-year contract worth $2.5 million.

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Minkah Fitzpatrick Was a First-Round Pick in 2018

If you’re wondering why Davenport would bestow a deep safety on the Steelers when they have Minkah Fitzpatrick on the roster, recall that the University of Alabama product was part of the 2018 draft too.

In this exercise, Fitzpatrick is selected one pick earlier than he was in real life, taken by the Los Vegas Raiders at No. 10 overall, who use the pick instead of trading it to the Arizona Cardinals.

In reality, the Cards chose UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, who lasted just one year in Arizona before he was shipped to Miami, who went on to trade Fitzpatrick to the Steelers in exchange for Pittsburgh’s 2020 first-round pick.

Fitzpatrick, 25, is a two-time first-team All-Pro who is regarded as the NFL’s most complete safety. He is expected to sign a market-setting contract extension with the Steelers sometime prior to the start of the 2022 season.

Steelers CB Bryce Watts Waived With an Injury Settlement

In one minor bit of transactional news from May 23, Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network reveals that the Steelers have waived cornerback Bryce Watts with an injury settlement.

In February 2022, Watts proclaimed himself the “best corner” in this year’s draft class. But he went undrafted and signed with the Steelers as a rookie undrafted free agent, only to be waived injured on May 16, in the immediate aftermath of the team’s rookie minicamp.

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