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2018 Offseason Questions: How Big Will Burnett’s Leadership Role Be?

The journey toward Super Bowl LII ended far too prematurely for the Pittsburgh Steelers, sending them into offseason mode before we were ready for it. But we are in it now, and are ready to move on, through the Combine, through free agency, through the draft, into OTAs, and beyond.

We have asked and answered a lot of questions over the years and will continue to do so, and at the moment, there seem to be a ton of questions that need answering. A surprise early exit in the postseason will do that to you though, especially when it happens in the way it did.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring developments all throughout the offseason process, all the way down to Latrobe. Pending free agents, possible veteran roster cuts, contract extensions, pre-draft visits, pro days, all of it will have its place when the time arises.

Question: How big of an impact will Morgan Burnett have as a leader on the defense, particularly in the secondary?

The fact that the majority of the Steelers’ secondary is rather young is a topic that we have already discussed earlier this offseason. With the team’s decision to release their three most veteran and longest-tenured players in William Gay, Mike Mitchell, and Robert Golden, they have no players on the roster who have played in more than two seasons with the team.

Joe Haden is the only player remaining from last season’s roster in the secondary that has a substantial amount of NFL experience, and he has only been with the team for about seven months, but he is now a key piece of the equation as a player who can assist the younger players at his position.

The addition of safety Morgan Burnett obviously gives the defense, and particularly the secondary, another veteran football player who has seen a lot of games, and has done so as a starter. As a player who actually had the responsibility of setting up the defense in Green Bay last season, he figures to be valuable in that regard as well.

I’m more interested in what sort of player he will be in the locker room though. I know that he was a player who was well-liked by both the players and the fans with the Packers, but the team was willing to let him walk because they too have turned to a younger group of players.

Admittedly, I do have a feeling that Burnett is going to become a team leader in relatively short order. He is actually one of the oldest players on the roster already, especially on the defensive side of the ball (only Tyson Alualu is older). There are players on the team who might have grown up watching him.

Thinking and feeling are not the same as knowing, of course. We won’t know how things play out until we get deeper into the year.

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