Steelers sign strong safety Morgan Burnett to 3-year deal
Expected to be bit players in free agency, the Steelers signed their second player in as many days Tuesday, addressing another deficiency on defense.
Strong safety Morgan Burnett, who spent his first eight seasons with the Green Bay Packers, agreed to a three-year deal that NFL Network reported is worth $14.5 million, with Burnett earning more than $10 million over his first two seasons.
The addition of the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Burnett in the secondary could result in the Steelers moving Sean Davis to free safety.
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) March 20, 2018
On Monday, the Steelers added a potential starting inside linebacker when they signed Jon Bostic to a two-year deal. He will get a chance to fill Ryan Shazier’s spot as the defensive signal caller.
Before the Burnett and Bostic signings, the Steelers were $6.36 million under the salary cap, per NFL Players’ Association records. Those deals likely leave the Steelers with little salary-cap space.
Burnett, 29, is one year younger than free safety Mike Mitchell, who was released last week after spending four seasons with the Steelers.
The Mitchell release saved the Steelers $5 million in base salary. That savings essentially was allocated for Burnett, whose deal averages $4.83 million per season.
Burnett was coming off a four-year, $24.75 million contract that averaged more than $6 million annually. The market for safeties was slow-moving, and the price range dipped as free agency neared the end of its first week.
“I really didn’t get too wrapped up in it,” Burnett said. “That’s something that’s out of my control, so I just went about my normal day life. I was with my wife, with my kids and knowing I’m confident in my skill set and knowing that one day I would get a call.”
Burnett said the Steelers showed interest early in the process, with the parameters of the contract being finalized Monday night.
“I was really excited when I got the call that everything was good to go,” Burnett said, “so I’m happy to be here and ready to get started.”
A link to the Super Bowl XLV championship team that defeated the Steelers — he was a rookie on injured reserve in the Packers’ victory — Burnett is considered one of the top run-stopping safeties in the NFL. According to Pro Football Focus, he had just one missed tackle in 249 run snaps with the Packers. Burnett, though, has been slowed by injuries in recent seasons. He has missed 10 games the past three seasons, including four last season: two because of a hamstring, two because of a groin.
In Green Bay, Burnett was used as a hybrid linebacker, slot cornerback and at both safety spots.
“I have things in my toolbox that I’m capable to move around and play different positions if need be,” Burnett said, “but definitely I came into the league as a safety, and that’s where I’m comfortable at.”
Burnett said the Steelers didn’t specify if he would play strong or free safety for them.
“Everything’s new,” he said. “I’m coming in to do my job the best I can do, wherever I fit, to be accountable as a teammate and earn the respect of the coaches and get into a routine with the rest of the fellas.”
The Burnett signing begins the process of rebuilding depth in the Steelers secondary. Along with Mitchell, safety Robert Golden and cornerback William Gay were released last week at the beginning of free agency.
The Steelers also have J.J. Wilcox and Jordan Dangerfield on the roster at safety.
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.