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Steelers fans have to be excited about the acquisition of Morgan Burnett

Safety Morgan Burnett should be a steadying influence for the Steelers secondary, and that's enough to get excited about his acquisition.

Detroit Lions v Green Bay Packers Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Over the weekend, while writing about the possibility of the Steelers signing anyone significant in free agency (a possibility that I admittedly thought was slim), former Packers safety Morgan Burnett was a name that jumped out at me.

After all, when someone is rated as the number one safety in free agency by Walterfootball.com, who described Burnett as the "centerpiece" of Green Bay's defense, why wouldn't any fan covet that player for his/her team?

But never in my wildest dreams did I think it would happen.

Here we are today, and it has happened.

On Tuesday, the Steelers officially announced the signing of Burnett to a three-year deal worth just under $15 million, according to NFL insider Ian Rapoport.

That's more money than I thought Pittsburgh would and could spend on any single player in free agency, but it's not my money, so I'm not going to fret about it (I'll let team cap whiz Omar Khan worry about such things).

What does concern me is whether or not Burnett can be an upgrade over veteran Mike Mitchell, who was released last week after four sort of okay years playing free safety for the Steelers.

Full disclosure: I was at least as excited about the free agent acquisition of Mitchell four springs ago, when he signed a fairly lucrative five-year, $25 million deal to come to Pittsburgh after one season with the Panthers.

As I alluded to earlier, Mitchell never quite lived up to his contract, although in fairness, he was mostly solid, at least until a season ago, when his play seemed to drop off.

So what makes me think things will be different with Burnett?

I believe the difference between Mitchell and Burnett is that the latter comes to town with more of a proven track record.

After being drafted in the second round by the Raiders in the 2009 NFL Draft, Mitchell failed to crack the starting lineup in Oakland, before finally signing a one year "show me" deal with Carolina in 2013.

To his credit, Mitchell showed a lot that year in his one season with the Panthers, as he started 14 games for a really good defense.

Perhaps we thought the sky was the limit for Mitchell, who arrived to town just shy of his 27th birthday and seemed primed to turn into something special (or at least a carbon copy of Ryan Clark).

Things never got much above average for Mitchell.

Unlike Mitchell, Burnett, 29, a third round pick by the Packers in the 2010 NFL Draft, assumed the role of starter in his second season and never relinquished it, starting 98 games over his final six seasons in Green Bay.

Burnett isn't a decorated player by any stretch, but if he can be for the Steelers defense what he was for Green Bay's—a centerpiece and a steadying influence in the secondary, he'll certainly be worth the investment.

Does Burnett come to town with some concerns?

Sure he does, at least from an injury standpoint, considering he's missed 10 games over the past three seasons.

But Ronnie Lott in his prime, Burnett is not—otherwise, he never would have made it to free agency.

Any free agent acquisition is going to include a bit of a gamble, but when you're considered a team on the cusp of winning a championship, you have to roll the dice.

It could have been easy (or least closer to the Steeler Way) to sign a depth player with the hopes that Pittsburgh would find and develop a youngster in the upcoming draft.

But if the Joe Haden signing from last summer taught us anything, it's that the Steeler Way is a very fluid concept, at least these days, when that championship window closes a little more each and every summer.

The Steelers don't need Morgan Burnett to be a superstar. They just need him to make their defense better.

If he can do that, it might just be enough to get over that championship hump.