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Steelers offense in Focus: Trey Edmunds for H-Back?

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By: Geoffrey Benedict

Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Trey Edmunds showed the potential of the H-Back position in the Hall of Fame game.

Trey Edmunds is only on the team because of his brother, or maybe because he has some connection to the state of Virginia, or maybe he was nice to Mike Tomlin’s son. . . Theories abound as to why Trey Edmunds has stuck around the Steelers, but the reality is, he has stuck around. The team has seen enough value in the oldest Edmunds brother to keep him around, in camp, on the practice squad and on the 53 man roster.

Edmunds does have value too, he’s a good special teams player, he’s a capable running back, and he can block. In 2019 as a rotational running back he recorded the longest run by a Steeler back since DeAngelo Williams in 2015, and in 2020 earned the backup fullback job. Trey Edmunds is a football player with a versatile skill set, and no one position where he is good enough to be a major player.

Which leads perfectly to the position he played late in the third quarter and the fourth quarter of the Hall of Fame game, when he was lining up as the team’s H-back.

Third quarter, 7:48. Trey Edmunds (#33) is second from the top, just off the line of scrimmage.

Edmunds is just outside TE Kevin Rader on this play, and he helps Rader establish his block on the edge rusher before peeling off to block the nickel back. Solid in-line blocking here, something H-back’s need to be able to do.

Fourth quarter, 10:09. Trey Edmunds is second from the top of the screen, just off the line of scrimmage.

In fact, this kind of blocking is the H-Back’s most common role on the field. No tight end helping him this time, Edmunds has to block the linebacker by himself, and he does a good job to get to his man and force him away from the run. Edmunds isn’t as good a blocker as the better blocking tight ends, he’s smaller and has shorter arms, but he’s good enough.

While he might not be as good of an in-line blocker as the blocking tight ends, there are other blocks that the H-back needs to be able to do that he does better than the tight ends did in Canton.

Fourth Quarter, 7:15. Trey Edmunds is second from the top of the screen, just off the line of scrimmage.

Edmunds does a good job on this block, he is quick to get across the formation, stays with the edge rusher through a juke step and is squared up on him when they meet. You can see he’s more of a fullback than a tight end with his approach to this block, where he hits to stop momentum and move his target, instead of get ahold of his man and control him.

All three of those plays the defense is trying to get past or around Trey Edmunds, they show no interest in covering him. If you have been reading the earlier parts of this series, you can probably predict what is coming.

Third quarter, 7:12. Trey Edmunds is second from the bottom of the screen, just off the line of scrimmage.

Watch #97 for Dallas on this play (edge to the top of the screen). He makes the same kind of juke step #43 made in the previous clip when he sees Edmunds coming at him, and Edmunds just runs past him for a quick catch and a 5 yard gain.

The value of the blocking ability of an H-back is evident right there. If you put Chase Claypool or Eric Ebron in Trey Edmunds spot there the defender is looking at them as a threat to cover, not a blocker to avoid. This is how a Derek Watt or Trey Edmunds can weaponize their blocking.

Fourth quarter, 12:01. Trey Edmunds is the H-back to the top of the screen.

This one is even more effective. The jet motion and play action are both moving to the top of the screen. Edmunds is moving to the bottom, but he’s been doing that, sealing the backside of the defense. With the tight end to that side going vertical there is no edge reading Edmunds, and he is wide open. This is another area where Edmunds has an advantage over a tight end or even Derek Watt, because he’s a running back, and he’s a more natural open field runner, and you can see his burst when he turns upfield, as well as his power as a runner.

I don’t want to hype Trey Edmunds too much here, this is the fourth quarter of a preseason game, Josh Dobbs is the quarterback, Derek Watt, Eric Ebron and Pat Freiermuth didn’t even play this game and Edmunds had to wait for the 3rd quarter to get his shot. What we can take away from this is evidence of how Matt Canada uses the H-Back position, and what the team will need to see from Watt or Freiermuth (my favorites for the main H-back role) to really make the position shine, and elevate Matt Canada’s offense.

I also think Trey Edmunds is worth watching in the upcoming games, because in my opinion, he was the best H-back the Steelers used in the Hall of Fame game, and his value as a depth running back, H-back and his value on special teams could be enough to earn him a spot on the 53 man roster if other players don’t show enough to keep him outside the bubble.

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