During his season-ending press conference a few months ago, Coach Mike Tomlin said he was still evaluating the performance of players, but his 'gut reaction' was that he did see that necessary jump from first year to second year in Terrell Edmunds, the team's No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Edmunds 'gut reaction' was a similar one, realizing any of the improvement on the field should be credited to the way his knowledge of the game has continued to grow and develop in his second season.
"Just getting a better understanding of the game," said Edmunds. "I am continuing to develop. Doing what I can do to help the team win more games, help the team however I can and develop from there.
"I am learning more, becoming more of a pro than a college player. Just growing. I have grown over these last two years. It's definitely a mental growth. The mental part plays a huge part in things. At the same time though, it's football."
It is football and part of that means up and downs. For the Steelers defense, there were plenty of ups. They finished the season ranked fifth overall in the NFL and third against the pass, an improvement over 2018 when the defense ranked 10th against the pass.
"It was amazing seeing how hard guys worked and bought in," said Edmunds. "We just wanted to win games. We didn't win as many as we wanted to, but it's something to build off of with the talent we have.
"We just have to keep working. We have to win more games. That is all everybody on this defense wants to do is win games. Nobody cares who makes the plays. We all just want to win games and that is what counts the most with this group."
That attitude of not caring who makes the play, as long as someone makes it, came from the players, but it also is something that Teryl Austin, the team's senior defensive assistant/secondary coach preaches.
"He is smart. He knows what he is talking about," said Edmunds. "He has that same mentality. He just wants to win however we can do it. It didn't matter who was out there. That is the attitude he brought.
He has been in the game a while. He knows a lot of different tricks."
Those 'tricks' played a big role in the defense crushing it when it came to turnovers this season. The defense created 38 takeaways in 2019, more than doubling their 15 takeaways in 2018. They finished the season with 20 interceptions and 18 fumble recoveries.
"It's something we worked on all offseason. We were so big on it," said Edmunds. "We practiced it. Once you practice it the way we did you are able to put it on display.
"It's just doing it in practice. You try to intercept the ball in practice. Try to take the ball away. Try to rip the ball away from the ball carrier. Anything you have to do in the game, you try to do it in practice.
"We did that all of the time, and it paid off."