Mike Mitchell, Steelers, NFL, Morgan Burnett

Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Poni: Morgan Burnett is solid and that beats Mike Mitchell

Steelers are upgrading at safety. Big time.

Andrew Fillipponi
March 20, 2018 - 4:15 pm

Last football season I adopted a pretty simple belief: any safety not named Mike Mitchell was better than Mike Mitchell. So when news came down Tuesday that the Steelers had signed Morgan Burnett, I was ecstatic.

Mitchell’s mouth produced at an all-pro level while his play on the field looked like something out of a blooper reel. He celebrated tackles after big gains. He threatened opposing players outside of their locker room. He produced no interceptions and forced no fumbles. The Steelers gave up the most monster plays (offensive plays of 50+ yards) in the NFL. I would have reached out to chauffer Mitchell out of town, but he blocked me on Twitter, the most defensive thing he did all year.

Morgan Burnett isn’t the next Troy Polamalu. You can count on him to hold a runner to a 6 yard gain instead of 25 yard burst. He’ll help hold a team to a field goal instead of a touchdown. According to Pro Football Focus, Burnett had the highest tackling efficiency among NFL safeties. In 13 games, he missed a total of 2 tackles. This would be a welcome change. If you watched the Steelers play last year and leaned over to the person next to you and said “this team can’t tackle,” your eyes weren’t lying, because the team led the league in missed tackles.

An NFC scout I talked to added this about Burnett: “He’s an excellent communicator. When he was out, the Green Bay defense was out of sync. He was like having an extra coach out there.”

The Steelers appear to have learned their lesson. The loss to Jacksonville highlighted a defensive unit’s inability to do the little things, like get in position and make a simple tackle. The defense can’t beat itself. Let the offense take care of the rest.

Burnett is solid. He’s not Tyrann Mathieu. The Honey Badger had a much higher upside at a surprisingly reasonable price. If healthy, he would keep opposing offensive coordinators up at night.

There is a downside to Burnett. He hasn’t played a full season since 2012. He’s also 29 years old. But he’s not Mike Mitchell. He won’t compare himself to Jack Tatum and he won’t make a fool of himself on Sundays. Morgan Burnett isn’t Mike Mitchell, and that’s good enough.