The Pittsburgh Steelers knew that they would have to make changes at safety this offseason after they made the determination that Mike Mitchell was no longer a fit for what they were looking to get out of him. To that end, they signed veteran Morgan Burnett, who spent his first eight seasons with the Green Bay Packers, to come in and start at one of the two safety positions.
So far, he has only made one start and played in four games, missing four due to injury. The result has been rookie Terrell Edmunds starting seven of eight games and logging over 500 snaps on defense, with another 132 on special teams.
That wasn’t the plan for him, and Head Coach Mike Tomlin earlier today during his pre-game press conference said that he would like to cut down on the rookie’s snap count—not because of performance issues, but for the sake of his development.
“Edmunds has done a nice job, but the totality of his play largely has been because of the lack of availability of Morgan”, Tomlin said. “And as Morgan gains his footing from a health standpoint, I’m interested in playing both guys”.
Burnett has been dealing with a groin injury throughout the season. He missed the four games prior to the bye week, but has been back as a dimebacker in sub-packages for the past two games, still working himself back into full health.
“A lot of exposure to young guys isn’t always good for their growth and development because with exposure comes negativity”, Tomlin said of the rookie starter at safety. “Edmunds has done a nice job but I’m not going to forget why he’s in the lineup down-in and down-out. It’s because Morgan has been hurt”.
Edmunds has had his share of growing pains, to be sure, but has also made strides, even in-game. We saw that yesterday when he was called for a defensive pass interference penalty, only to have one-on-one coverage in a similar position later in the game, making the play and preventing a touchdown. And he was late lining up into his position.
“And as Morgan gets healthy, I’m open to infusing him back into the lineup, and watching those guys compete and letting both guys play and hopefully getting productive play out of the position”, Tomlin completed his thoughts on the matter. “That’s my mentality, but that’s no secret”.
The Steelers obviously drafted Edmunds with an eye toward him being a full-time starter in the long term, but for the present, they are concerned about overworking and overexposing him, so it will be interesting to see how they are able to scale back his workload over the second half of the season.
Given the short week, playing on Thursday, it would seem to be the ideal time to give Burnett more snaps right now. Burnett has been back for two weeks now. We shall see.