Not that outside confirmation is needed, nor sought, but it’s always nice to see it. This offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers elected to make a significant move at the safety position, including in the starting lineup. They released three of the four players that were on the 53-man roster in 2017 and added four new players, two in free agency and two in the draft.
Among those additions is ninth-year veteran safety Morgan Burnett, who had up to this point spent his entire career with the Green Bay Packers. His Packers actually beat the Steelers in the Super Bowl during his rookie season in 2010. He was taken in the same draft class as last year’s addition, cornerback Joe Haden.
According to Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report, the Steelers bringing in Burnett was one of the more overlooked moves of the offseason. In an article posted a couple of days ago, he listed it among seven other moves that he believes have not gotten as much attention than is perhaps warranted.
He argues its value from the perspective of working toward replacing inside linebacker Ryan Shazier’s role on the field, which is undoubtedly the most trying task for the defense this year, as he was one of their two Pro Bowlers.
Burnett can play a lot in the box, as he has in recent years with the Packers, but at least until he proves otherwise, the Steelers also believe they can play him at strong and free safety. The addition of first-round safety Terrell Edmunds as a strong, athletic piece that can be moved around will be another element of their efforts to replace Shazier’s on-field role.
Of course Shazier’s literal, explicit on-field role will be taken over by Jon Bostic, signed in free agency, or perhaps Tyler Matakevich. It seems as though the two linebackers are gearing up for a good old-fashioned training camp competition for the starting job. Especially if Bostic wins the job, he could actually be an every-down player, with Vince Williams coming off the field.
Burnett is replacing Mike Mitchell, who was the Steelers’ starting free safety for the past four seasons. He complete four-fifths of a five-year contract before the team released him earlier this offseason, earning $20 million of the $25 million deal.
Mitchell currently remains unsigned since his release in March, but that has not been unusual this offseason—even if the other safeties the Steelers have released have signed new deals. The veteran is likely looking for more than veteran-minimum, and he is in good company with the likes of Eric Reid, Tre Boston, and Kenny Vaccaro also still unsigned.