The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Morgan Burnett’s desire to be released reflects badly on the organization.
Explanation: The Steelers signed veteran safety Morgan Burnett to a three-year contract with the intention of him serving as a bridge starter. After drafting a safety in the first round and Burnett experiencing a series of injuries in the offseason, he was largely reduced to playing dimebacker. In the offseason, he told Jeremy Fowler that he asked for his release because he wanted to play safety.
While there is a lot of pride involved, generally speaking when you get a player to buy into your system, he is willing to be on board and do whatever is asked of him. In fact, that’s usually what players say after they sign a contract, that they’ll be willing to do anything that is asked of them.
Even if Burnett didn’t end up starting, you would still hope that he would want to be a part of the team and believe in Mike Tomlin’s vision. Instead, he is willing to escape the $9 million he is owed over the next two years to potentially sign for less money elsewhere after the initial rush of free agency has already subsided.
There is nobody for Burnett to blame for his situation than himself, or perhaps his parents, because it is his rash of soft-tissue injuries that caused him to be bypassed for a starting job. That is either due to poor genetics or poor conditioning, and neither of those fall upon Tomlin’s shoulders when you’re pulling groin muscles in the spring.
With a $5 million base salary on the books and knowing he was out of a starting job, it’s reasonable to assume that Burnett’s claimed desire to be released was influence in no small part by his presumption that he would, indeed, be released, whether he wanted to be or not. It looks better when you can control the narrative.
The former Green Bay Packers’ story is separate from that of past malcontents. He was only here for one season and he was barely ever healthy during that time. players get passed over on the depth chart with regularity. He was installed as the starter in Week Two after coming back from injury only to be injured again and miss the next four games.
He can’t fault the Steelers for drafting Terrell Edmunds, and he can’t fault them for playing him, either. Nor can he fault Edmunds for playing sufficiently well for him to continue starting when Burnett was finally healthy. And when he was on the field, Burnett didn’t play particularly well in the first place. This is a very difficult sell for him.