When news broke on Saturday that Morgan Burnett, the veteran strong safety and protesting dime linebacker, wants out of the three-year deal he signed with the Steelers last March, the first thing I thought was, “How in the blue heck did the Steelers ever land the services of Joe Haden, the heaven-sent cornerback who came to town right before the start of the 2017 campaign?"
Ah, but that was just it. Haden sort of fell into Pittsburgh’s lap after the Browns released him near the end of training camp. There was no real time for Haden to shop his wares to several NFL teams. And arriving in Pittsburgh straight from the Browns, who were coming off of a 1-15 2016 season and were staring very hard at a similar campaign in 2017 (turned out to be 0-16), the Steelers probably seemed like a utopia, the relationship equivalent of being dumped by your video game-playing boyfriend and then going to the grocery store and immediately reaching for the same loaf of bread as Ryan Gosling.
Had the Steelers sought Haden’s services during the more traditional time for free agency—March—they likely would have signed the video game-playing boyfriend—or at least someone too injured to do anything but play video games.
I say this because Burnett, who missed five games in 2018 due to injury and didn’t seem to make much of an impact in the other 11 games in-which he did appear in the lineup, is likely to get his wish, especially with Terrell Edmunds—and his first-round pedigree—in need of a place in the lineup in 2019.
And if Burnett is, indeed, released from his contract, he’ll join other, recent Steelers free agent signings in the little-to-no impact bin.
The first one that comes to mind is Mike Mitchell, the safety who the Steelers signed in 2014 and a man that, ironically enough, was ultimately replaced by Burnett. Yes, Mitchell was nice but, arriving in town as a fresh-faced 27-year old and coming off of a really big “contract year” with the Panthers, I think everyone expected Mitchell to be a little more than just “nice.”
The next player that comes to mind is Ladarius Green, a tight end signed in 2016, a youngster with size and speed who was looking to get out from under the shadow of legendary Chargers tight end, Antonio Gates. Unfortunately, Green spent the majority of his time with the Steelers not playing due to either ankle surgery or concussion symptoms—concussions that he suffered while in San Diego—depending on who you believed at the time (it was concussion symptoms) and was released after one season.
The next man that comes to mind is Jon Bostic, once again, a nice player—this time at the inside linebacker spot—but also a veteran who, well, if the Steelers can find a suitable replacement in the upcoming draft, many people will feel very happy.
I’m sure there are other recent free agents that come to mind, but the fact that I have to do research to even remember their names speaks volumes (and don’t @ me with LeGarrette Blount and DeAngelo Williams. They were insurance for Le’Veon Bell, and nobody gets excited about insurance).
Anyway, this is why I never get all that excited when free agency kicks off each March. This is also why I never get too angry when the Steelers inevitably sign an underwhelming player.
Even when they sign the big names—at least big for them—those names usually have a lot of time to play video games.
But I know, I know, the Steelers will have a lot of cap space this year, so, gosh darn it, things will be different.
I’ll believe it when I see it.