2018 South Side Questions: Game Edition – What Will Be Burnett’s Role?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.

How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Game Edition – What role if any will Morgan Burnett see on defense today?

It has been roughly a month and a half since Morgan Burnett, the veteran safety that the Steelers signed in free agency, has been on the field. he missed the team’s past four games, and was also slow to practice during their bye week, but was a full participant during the final two days.

Already he appears to have been passed over in favor of Terrell Edmunds, who figures only to lose his role as the starting strong safety from this point forward if he struggles, or misses too many games due to injury, which is what ended up happening to Ryan Shazier during his rookie year.

Even in his brief playing time over the course of the first two games, Burnett was used as a dimebacker in the Steelers’ dime defense, which they use roughly 20 percent of the time, depending on how certain games develop.

In his absence over the course of the past four games, that role has been given to Cameron Sutton, the second-year cornerback that they want to develop, and he has done some good things there in recent weeks.

If they remove Sutton from that role, it will be hard for him to find playing time unless they throw him into the rotational mix at right outside cornerback, where Artie Burns and Coty Sensabaugh are still splitting time because neither of them actually looks like a full-time starter.

The Steelers signed Burnett to play, however, and when he did play, he turned in solid performances, something that I talked about yesterday in my midseason evaluation of him. For one thing, he would offer a bigger body in coverage against tight ends, which Sutton had a hard time with when they used their size to block him out.

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