During the month of March, the Pittsburgh Steelers signed free agent veteran safety Morgan Burnett to a three-year, $14.35 million contract that included a signing bonus of $4.25 million. Since then, however, the former third-round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers hasn’t played in games very much and that includes the preseason as well as he’s been dealing with a groin injury.
Burnett, who played all of 37 defensive snaps in the Steelers first two preseason games this year, has since played in only two regular season games to the tune of another 92 defensive snaps. He’s missed the team’s last four games due to an issue with his groin and judging by multiple Wednesday reports, it sounds like he’s not guaranteed to return to action after the team returns from their bye week.
“I am just taking it day by day,” Burnett said Wednesday about his heath, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. “I don’t know what’s in the future for me.”
Burnett went on to tell the Pittsburgh paper that he doesn’t expect to need surgery or any other kind of procedure to repair the issue he’s currently having with his groin.
“No,” Burnett said. “I just take it day by day.”
Veteran safeties dealing with injured groins isn’t something new more the Steelers and especially when it comes to the players first seasons in Pittsburgh.
After signing a five-year, $25 million free agent contract with the Steelers in March of 2014, now former safety Mike Mitchell then proceeded to start his first training camp in Pittsburgh off on the team’s Active PUP list because of a groin injury. Once he was able to start practicing, Mitchell went on to play in every game for the Steelers that 2014 season. However, he later claimed that he did so despite dealing with two torn groins that reportedly needed to be surgically repaired early in the 2015 offseason.
Last season, Burnett missed four games as a member of the Packers. The first two were due to a hamstring injury while the second two were due to an injured groin. In fact, Burnett’s first game back from that groin injury was against the Steelers and he ended that week listed as questionable with that same ailment.
“Any time you have an injury you want to get back as soon as possible, but sometimes your body has a mind of its own,” Burnett said Wednesday, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I’m confident in what I can do as a player. As a competitor you want to be out there competing.”
With Burnett not competing on the field the last four weeks, it’s allowed the team’s 2018 first round draft pick, safety Terrell Edmunds, the opportunity to start and play extensively. While Edmunds play in the team’s first six regular season games looks very much like that of a confused rookie at times, his last two performances ahead of the bye against the Atlanta Falcons and Cincinnati Bengals were far from awful and this show that he’s making some improvement. Edmunds admitted this week that Burnett has helped him improve while he’s been unable to participate.
“If he sees something in practice that I need to develop or get better at, he’s going to help me out,” Edmunds said of Burnett, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “And even at the game he is on the sidelines, so he is talking to us each and every play…. because he’s a part of the team, too, so he tries to make sure that we’re the best team out there.”
Assuming Burnett is unable to play in the Steelers next two games against the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens, Edmunds would obviously start in his place. However, even if Burnett makes a miraculous healing between now and a week from this coming Sunday, it’s doubtful he’d start ahead of Edmunds just the same. At this point, Burnett eventuality getting himself back fully healthy again would make him a luxury for the Steelers to have at that point. The veteran would then likely play in dime packages the remainder of the season barring Edmunds or the team’s other starting safety Sean Davis, suffering an injury.
As things stand right now during the Steelers bye week, the signing of Burnett during free agency appears to have been wasted money and that’s becoming a somewhat of a frequent occurrence for the organization when it comes to the high-priced ones they ink. It wasn’t too long ago that the Steelers threw the bulk of their available free agent money at tight end Ladarius Green and they certainly didn’t get much of anything from him in his one season in Pittsburgh. Green was released in 2017 after playing in just 6 games. Burnett is likely to be one and done in Pittsburgh as well and it will be interesting to see if before that happens he can at least suit up for a total of six games.
Burnett has registered 8 total tackles and a quarterback hit in the two games he played in this season. Edmunds, on the other hand, enters the bye week having registered 21 total tackles on defense, a quarterback hit, an interception, a fumble recovery and two passes defensed.