Burnett Ready to Compete in Crowded Safety Group

Former Packers DB Looking to Add Enhanced Tackling

Josh Rowntree
May 24, 2018 - 4:07 pm
Steelers S Morgan Burnett works on ball drills during OTAs

Josh Rowntree

In March, the Steelers signed former Green Bay safety Morgan Burnett to add much needed help in the back end of the secondary. 

Then the team went out and drafted two more safeties to add to a group that already has a starter in Sean Davis. 

So now, for Burnett, what appeared to be his job to lose is going to have to be won in a fairly deep competition. 

"It doesn’t surprise me,” Burnett said of the secondary additions. "That’s the nature of this business. I feel like my job is to come in and be accountable as a safety and be accountable as a teammate. That’s all I can do, is control what I can control.”

Burnett is entering his ninth NFL season, having missed four games last season and making just 48 tackles, with no interceptions. 

Now he must get familiar with a new team and city. 

"A lot of it’s similar,” he said of the transition from the Packers organization. "It’s just all about learning the terminology, getting used to your teammates and getting used to the work environment.”

This offseason, the Steelers are emphasizing a boost in tackling with the additions of Burnett and draft picks Terrell Edmunds and Marcus Allen. 

“You always can improve on tackling,” Burnett said. "Tackling is about effort and finish. That’s something you can control. Practice that every day, practice becomes habits and practice carries over into the game."

Burnett is walking into a similar situation as his new defensive backs coach, Tom Bradley, who joins Pittsburgh’s coaching staff after a long career as an assistant at Penn State under Joe Paterno. 

"We kind of both understand that we’re learning together,” Burnett said. “We’re learning the way things go around here and learning the defensive together.” 

An enhancement at the safety position will likely give some relief to the a cornerback group anchored by Artie Burns, Mike Hilton and Joe Haden who, like Burnett, joined Pittsburgh as a free agent last season. 

"I think Morgan is such a smart player and has been in the League for such a long time and understands football, understands concepts,” Haden said. "I think we’re kind of more on the same page. I’ve been through a lot of defensive coordinators, same as him. So, we can just feel each other out and feel what’s going on."

According to Burnett, his exact role has not yet been defined and there’s been no rhyme or reason to the division of the safety position. But, when that becomes clearer, Burnett will likely have to battle with multiple other safeties for a starting job.

"The guys have been very embracive,” he said. “It’s a good group, a good defensive back group and a good team as a whole. Guys welcome you with open arms and are willing to help you grow. I love the competition out here because with that good competition, it’ll help us all get better."