There's a certain kind of joyful mundaneness

The Pittsburgh Steelers rookie safety is
typically up before dawn and at the team's training facility by 7
a.m. Youth
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, where he spends the 11 or so hours watching
film, lifting weights, attending meetings and practicing.It's much the same when
the first-round pick gets back home. Edmunds will place his legs inside a pair
of compression sleeves designed to help his muscles recover quickly, flip on his
iPad and look at more tape. Typically, Edmunds lets the video run at normal
speed. No need to slow it down."I just let it play," Edmunds said. "Sometimes I
don't look into detail. I'll see what pops up more than once and think 'Oh I saw
this before. Who are they throwing it to the most?' Things like that."Edmunds is
a quick study. Thrown immediately into the mix thanks to a preseason injury to
free agent signee Morgan Burnett, Edmunds has been a bright spot for an uneven
secondary.Steady if not yet spectacular, Edmunds has earned the trust of
defensive backs coach Tom Bradley and head coach Mike Tomlin for his
conscientious approach to his work."He's gotten better each and every game,"
Bradley said Tuesday. "The thing that got him three games ago doesn't get him
now. Each week there's something he picks up that becomes easier in his
repertoire as we progress in this thing."Edmunds really hasn't had much choice.
He was supposed to spend his first season learning behind Burnett. It hasn't
quite turned out that way.The Steelers (3-2-1) signed the former Green Bay
Packer to a three-year deal in the offseason, hopeful Burnett could provide
leadership and sure tackling, both things in short supply for a group in
transition.Instead, Burnett has spent most of his time in Pittsburgh watching
from the sideline thanks to a steady stream of injuries, the latest a groin
issue that's forced him to miss each of the past four games.There is no
timetable for when Burnett might be able to return and given Edmunds' rapid
development, it's uncertain what role Burnett might fill whenever he is healthy
enough to play.Burnett's status is one of a handful Bradley has been forced to
face in his first year on the job. The careful offseason plan he and Tomlin put
together to revitalize Pittsburgh's secondary makeover is in tatters. Burnett
can't stay on the field.Cornerback Artie Burns is struggling and Coty Sensabaugh
and Cam Sutton — the two most likely candidates to replace the erratic Burns —
can't put together enough good stretches to provide a compelling reason to sit
Burns down and let him regroup."We've got to make a lot of adjustments just
based on injuries and the guys that have been able to play," Bradley said. "The
things we worked on in preseason practice, we've been unable to play because of
the different people playing different positions."Pittsburgh enters its bye week
ranked 27th in passing yards and 29th in passing touchdowns allowed. Not exactly
the step forward the organization had in mind when defensive backs coach Carnell
Lake stepped away in the aftermath of a playoff loss to Jacksonville in January
and veterans Mike Mitchell, Rob Golden and William Gay were released in March
.Bradley is quick to place the blame on his shoulders. He's confident Burns — a
standout as a rookie in 2016 — will get his swagger back."Artie has to play more
consistently, he knows that," Bradley said. "We've got to make sure we
concentrate on every play, to get everything right ,
all the little things."And maybe the big things too. Burns was beaten badly by
Cincinnati's Tyler Boyd in Pittsburgh's 28-21 victory last Sunday, standing
several steps behind Boyd as Boyd hauled in a remarkably easy 14-yard touchdown
reception. Burns was replaced for a spell in the third quarter, but any
long-term solution for the Steelers relies on Burns returning to form."I think
he'll be fine," Bradley said. "He's got confidence in his ability and things he
can do."If Burns needs inspiration, he doesn't need to look far. Pittsburgh
finds itself in the thick of the AFC North race despite its uneven play on
defense thanks in large part to veteran cornerback Joe Haden. The 29-year-old
kept Atlanta's Julio Jones in check in a 41-17 victory two weeks ago and kept
Bengals star A.J. Green out of the end zone."Joe's athletic ability is still
pretty sharp," Bradley said. "But mentally he gets better as time goes on and I
think he understands what people are trying to get done."It's a path the rest of
the secondary is trying to follow. Work — lots of work in some cases — needs to
be done, but Bradley believes the communication problems and injury concerns
that have hampered his group will level off going forward."Playing defense is a
lot like driving a car," Bradley said. "When you start out, we're all (hands at)
10 (o'clock) and 2 (o'clock), staring constantly. Then as you start to drive
more ... you still see everything but you're able to look around, talk to people
and do different things. Now, as time goes on, we'll start to play faster."
Update: Two days after signing with the Saints, Dez Bryant is believed to have
torn his Achilles. What a brutal turn of events.Dez Bryant waited for the right
opportunity after being released by the Cowboys this offseason. On Wednesday he
found it — with the NFC’s top team.Bryant signed a one-year contract worth up to
$1.75 million with the 7-1 New Orleans Saints, giving Drew Brees and Michael
Thomas some much needed support in the passing game. The veteran wideout
confirmed his decision on Twitter not long after the news broke.While Thomas has
been a revelation in his third season in the league, he’s also been responsible
for 65 percent of his team’s receptions among wide receivers. Adding Bryant will
take some of the weight from his shoulders — and potentially keep teams from
defaulting to double- and triple-teams for the Saints’ rising star.Bryant had
spent his first eight seasons with the Cowboys. During his time in Dallas,
Bryant made three Pro Bowls and earned one All-Pro nod in 2014. In New Orleans,
he’ll try to get back to his 2014 form, which was the last season he eclipsed
1,000 yards.It may be a stretch to get there. Bryant’s recent on-the-field
decline set a soft market for the newfound free agent’s services this offseason.
While the Ravens were interested in adding him to their revamped receiving
corps Black
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, the veteran turned down a multi-year contract
with Baltimore in order to chase a value-rehabilitating one-year deal elsewhere.
His plan of turning a comeback year with the Saints into big guaranteed money in
2019 seems like a risky proposition; Bryant is betting there will be a hard
market for a player who just turned 30.He won’t make his 2018 debut when the
Saints visit the Bengals this Sunday, but he could play in Week 11:Why did the
Saints sign Bryant?Bryant languished on the free market for longer than
expected, but injuries and general ineffectiveness behind Thomas made him an
obvious match in New Orleans. Veteran deep threat Ted Ginn’s season ended after
four games thanks to injury and valuable slot receiver Tommylee Lewis isn’t
eligible to return to the active roster until Week 11 due to a knee injury of
his own.That’s put pressure on a supporting cast of players like Cameron
Meredith, rookie third-round pick Tre’Quan Smith, and Austin Carr, who’ve
underwhelmed in 2018. Meredith was placed on injured reserve after the Saints
signed Bryant.While dynamic tailback Alvin Kamara has been an important part of
the team’s passing game and Ben Watson is performing as well as any 38-year-old
tight end ever has, the Saints needed someone who could threaten opposing
secondaries consistently on the opposite sideline from Thomas.Enter Bryant, who
may not be the player he was in an All-Pro 2014 campaign but still managed to
haul in eight touchdowns and record 15.9 yards per catch in a 13-game 2016
season. The 220-pound veteran gives Brees a bulky target with a nose for the end
zone, and his presence should not only take some of the defensive focus off of
Thomas’ plate, but also give Brees a much more viable second option among his
wide receivers on the rare occasion Thomas is covered.It’s also a move that
signals the Saints are taking what could be Brees’ final push toward a second
Super Bowl title seriously. New Orleans has surged back into the NFC’s playoff
picture the past two seasons after going from 2014 to 2016 mired in a seven-win
wasteland. Brees has fought off the clock admirably, but he’s also almost 40
years old. His championship window is closing — but adding Bryant will give him
an extra boost to climb through it in 2018.And Bryant will get a revenge game to
prove himself out of the deal as well. New Orleans will face the Cowboys in a
Thursday Night Football showdown in Dallas Nov. 29.However, it’s still up in the
air if Bryant will play this Sunday against the Bengals.Can Bryant still be a
good player?He could. Randy Moss turned his career around after two struggle
seasons in Oakland, when he signed with the Patriots. We probably shouldn’t
expect such a historic turnaround from Bryant like that — it’s an extreme
example, but it gets the point across.A change of scenery could be good for
Bryant. He was solid in 2017, albeit not spectacular, and there’s a chance the
switch from Tony Romo to Dak Prescott at quarterback had a negative impact on
his output. Reuniting with a veteran pocket passer could be just the change he
needs to snap back into form and prove he’s still capable of delivering a Pro
Bowl campaign.Bryant also has a theory for why things went south when Prescott
took over at quarterback. He says the real problem was “garbage-ass play
calling.”Whatever what you attribute the struggles to, it’s worth mentioning
just how well his overall career with the Cowboys went:Now he’ll team up with
Brees in what may be the best season of the veteran quarterback’s career. If he
can’t rehab his value in New Orleans, 2018 could be the end of the line for
Bryant’s run as a Pro Bowl-caliber player.
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