The Pittsburgh Steelers sent shock waves throughout the fan base when they signed free agent safety Morgan Burnett, who previously played for the Green Bay Packers. By now, everyone has heard the usual tidbits on Burnett:
- Has had injury issues in the past
- Very versatile
- Great tackler
And so on, and so forth.
I wanted to get to know what the Steelers were getting, and decided to reach out to Evan “Tex” Western from Acme Packing Company, SB Nation’s Packers website, to ask him a few questions about the man he covered since his rookie season.
Take a look at the interview below:
Morgan Burnett hasn’t played a full season since 2012. Have his ailments been similar, like a lingering knee injury, or just fluke maladies?
While Burnett has missed time each of the last few seasons, it has been almost entirely due to minor, or nagging, muscle-related injuries. He has had a few hamstring pulls (which is what kept him out of a few games in 2017 and 2013), he popped up on the injury report a few times with a groin issue, and he missed a few games in 2015 with a quad injury. However, the only notable major injury he has suffered as a pro was a torn ACL as a rookie in 2010, but he bounced back from that without any issues in the following seasons. There’s certainly a good chance he misses a game or two with something in 2018, but there’s no reason to think that he has any particular limitations from any of his previous issues.
Burnett has played a number of positions while in Green Bay. Where does he excel the most?
By far, Burnett’s best role is as a roving box safety where he can support the run. He rarely misses a tackle and has an excellent nose for sniffing out ball carriers and avoiding blocks. Interestingly, he played a little more of a free safety role early in his career before moving down towards the box, and as the years have gone on he has taken on more and more responsibility at different spots. He also lined up frequently as a slot cornerback and a sub package linebacker in 2016 and 2017; opposing teams did not target him a whole lot in coverage out of the slot last year, but when they did they were successful as he allowed a passer rating over around 133 (according to Pro Football Focus). If you can keep him in more of a run support role while giving him a handful coverage assignments on running backs or tight ends, that’s probably where he’ll be at his best.
Were the Packers interested in bringing Burnett back? Why or why not?
The team was definitely interested, in large part because of his leadership and veteran presence in the locker room. He also wore the communications helmet on defense for the last few years and was very much the field general for that unit, making sure everyone was aligned properly. His impact probably goes beyond just his own stats and performance, as the defense appeared to be much more coordinated with him on the field and more prone to blown assignments and miscommunications when he was sitting out. However, early on in free agency, rumor had it that he was looking for upwards of $8 million per year, which seems far too pricey, but I expected his market to drop down into the level that the Packers would be comfortable with signing him. Apparently that isn’t the case.
What is your general description of what fans can expect from Burnett?
All told, Burnett is a solid tackling safety with the ability and experience to pitch in at a variety of different positions. He won’t blow anyone away with his coverage ability, but does enough to get by and brings a wealth of veteran experience to ensure that he’ll be in the right place at the right time. If he were paired with a good ball-hawking free safety, he would make for a very good traditional strong safety, but his versatility ensures that he can find a role in pretty much any defensive scheme.
A huge thanks to Evan for helping us out with this article, and hopefully it helps fans get a more realistic viewpoint of the newest member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and information on the black-and-gold heading into the NFL Draft.