2018 South Side Questions: Morgan Burnett’s Starting Days Already Over?

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: Barring a setback in Terrell Edmunds’ development, is Morgan Burnett’s starting opportunity over?

When the Steelers brought in veteran safety Morgan Burnett in free agency, they surely knew that there was a good chance he would not complete his three-year contract as a full-time starter throughout that duration. At some point, he would transition into a lesser role.

They probably didn’t anticipate that happening pretty much at the beginning of his Steelers career. Even in the first came he ever played, he came off the bench to play dimebacker. He did rotate in a little with Terrell Edmunds, and started the second game at strong safety, but after being sidelined for four games, he was strictly a dime player on Sunday.

During the time that he missed, the rookie Edmunds did a lot of playing, and got a lot of mistakes out of his system, picking up experience and generally improving along the way. Enough, evidently, that the coaching staff is comfortable with him continuing on as a full-time player ahead of a healthy Burnett.

That is what Mike Tomlin seemed to suggest yesterday when he lauded the work of the ‘sub-package’ players, putting Burnett in that group. Burnett, L.J. Fort, and Mike Hilton were all on the field for about 20 or so snaps in the dime defense against the Cleveland Browns.

It may well be true that between the two players right now Burnett is the better player, and also the option that gives the defense the better chance to succeed. Even on Sunday, I saw Edmunds missing angles that helped lead to some of the bigger plays the Browns had, for what it’s worth.

But as Tomlin has said, he is learning while he’s winning. As long as they keep winning, and he is not literally costing them games, I would assume that they will let him go through his growing pains as an every-down player.

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