The Pittsburgh Steelers may be getting one starter back in the secondary tonight, but are likely losing another, as strong safety Morgan Burnett is not expected to play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The ninth-year safety has missed a good deal of time dating back to OTAs due to a variety of soft tissue injuries and he ended this week of practice as a non-participant.
That means that there is more pressure than ever on Terrell Edmunds, the Steelers’ first-round rookie safety. Edmunds actually started and played the majority of the season opener, but Burnett still played extensively, both at strong safety (rotating with Edmunds) and at the dimebacker role (in sub-packages).
That decision was made because Burnett was working his way back from yet another injury and was new to the team, so he was probably on a pitch count. He started the following week for the team, though as you can see, it did little good.
Not having him in the lineup does the team no favors, however. At least, depending upon what Edmunds shows, but he is coming off a rough game. In the opener as well, he did not record any official statistics aside from a pass defensed on a non-catch that was already bobbled.
In other words, we haven’t really seen much of anything from him yet in any games that mean anything. He did record four tackles against the Chiefs, though one of them came on special teams, and all of the other three were on positive plays for the offense. He was also credited with two missed tackles.
It’s far too early along in his career to suggest that ‘it’s time for him to show what he’s made of’ or anything like that, but it would be great to see him play as well as he did during select stretches of the preseason, which included an interception and a few other nice plays on balls in the air, plus a couple of run stops.
Assuming that Burnett does indeed sit, the question becomes, do the Steelers trust him to play 100 percent of the snaps? is it possible that the team would consider rotating in either Jordan Dangerfield or Nat Berhe in his place, or even use a one-safety look (something that they’ve already done this year)?
The ideal scenario is that he plays so well that the coaching staff never finds a reason to take him off the field. He reduces Burnett to a full-time backup role, only coming on the field in sub-packages, mostly with six or seven defensive backs on the field. though the truth is, I really don’t think at all that he is there yet. Based on the first two weeks, he’s still spending a lot of time processing what’s around him, preventing him from being a more impactful player. For a strong safety to have three tackles over two games in over 106 snaps is underwhelming.