Morgan Burnett may not have been a starter for the Steelers in 2019, but his desire to leave Pittsburgh makes coach Mike Tomlin look pretty bad.
When the Steelers spent a first round pick on Terrell Edmunds in the 2018 draft it was clear Morgan Burnett’s days in Pittsburgh were numbered. However, the fact that he’s so desperate to leave the team this offseason is about more than just his potential role in the Steelers’ secondary.
The news that Burnett wants out isn’t a breaking story. The veteran safety chose to communicate his request for a release to an NFL Network reporter during this year’s playoffs. It seems that the Steelers are willing to let him go, but they are trying to find a team willing to trade for him before they commit to releasing him.
A hamstring injury limited Burnett during preseason which opened the door for Edmunds to take his job Week 1. Burnett actually got his starting spot back the following week before a new groin injury knocked him out of the lineup. Things got weird after Burnett returned to practice after that absence.
Tomlin openly discussed the likelihood of Burnett regaining his starting position, but he never got another start under Tomlin. Instead, the majority of his action late in the season came as the team’s dime linebacker. That represents quite a fall from a player who began the season in the mix for a starting position.
It’s not difficult to read between the lines and see what Burnett’s issue is here. He clearly doesn’t think he got a fair shake from Tomlin. If this were an isolated incident it could be chalked up to a random disagreement between a proud veteran and his head coach. Unfortunately for Tomlin, the rest of his offseason activity robs him of the benefit of the doubt.
His high-profile battles with both Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown make it clear that Tomlin struggles to connect with his veterans. That’s starting to have a real negative effect on the Steelers roster. Losing Burnett isn’t going to end Pittsburgh’s playoff hopes in 2019, but it’s a symptom of a much bigger problem inside the organization.
In the end, it could prove to be Tomlin’s undoing. If he can’t find a way to gain the support of his entire locker room next season it could be his final year in charge of the storied franchise.