To say that Pittsburgh Steelers veteran safety Morgan Burnett has been huge disappointment this season would be a bit of an understatement. Burnett, who was signed to a three-year free agent contract by the Steelers back in March, has been dealing with a groin injury since Week 2 of the season and thus hasn’t played since and is probably unlikely to return to the field Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.
When and if Burnett can overcome his groin injury, it will be interesting to see how he’s used on defense moving forward as his absence to date has now allowed rookie safety Terrell Edmunds, the team’s first-round selection this year, to not only get on the field more, but make some progress in his development in the last few games. On Tuesday, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about Burnett and specifically about what his role could potentially be moving forward once he’s healthy enough to play again.
“You know, that’s going to be determined as he displays availability and that availability is being able to put consecutive practice days together,” Tomlin said of Burnett, who hasn’t even played 100 total defensive snaps this season, his first in Pittsburgh. “And so, we’re going to give him an opportunity to practice. We gave him an opportunity to practice yesterday in a partial capacity, not at the expense of others, because he hasn’t proven that consistent availability yet. As he does, then we’ll infuse him in and potentially define a role for him and get him ready to play. But we’ve got a number of days. He’s a veteran player, he’s very good above the neck. The first things first though is the consistent health, being able to walk on the field, participate, walk off the field and repeat process.”
That statement from Tomlin speaks volumes. For starters, Burnett is going to likely have to put together a full weeks’ worth of practice before being allowed to suit up for another game. And to hear the safety talk during the team’s bye week, that isn’t likely to happen this week, but we’ll see what the team’s Wednesday and Thursday practice participation reports say just the same.
When and if Burnett does suit up again this season, it’s hard to imagine him being anything more than a dime package player at this point unless Edmunds were to get injured or struggle mightily in several consecutive games. Additionally, Burnett isn’t likely to be much of a special teams contributor at this point of his career.
Prior to him being signed by the Steelers this past offseason Burnett had a recent history of soft tissue injuries as a member of the Green Bay Packers that resulted in him missing several games the last few seasons That’s probably why the Steelers were able to easily sign him to the three-year contract that they did back in March that included just a $4.25 million signing bonus. As it looks right now, Burnett might be one and done in Pittsburgh and thus an offseason roster cut come February unless he has a dramatic turnaround in the coming weeks.
Having Burnett back fully healthy again would certainly be a plus for the Steelers as it would give them some experienced depth at the safety position during the second half of the regular season. On Tuesday, Tomlin was asked if he’s happy with the play of his safeties up until this point of the season and he answered that question just as you would expect him to.
“Man, I’m very hesitant to acknowledge happiness with anything,” Tomlin said “We’re just trying to get better.”