Groin injury lingers for Steelers safety Morgan Burnett
Minutes before he was leaving UPMC Rooney Complex to catch a flight to enjoy the bye week, Morgan Burnett was talking with Garrett Giemont early Wednesday afternoon.
Giemont, the Pittsburgh Steelers conditioning coordinator, was miming lunge-like exercises. He gave Burnett stretching bands and illustrations the veteran safety can use during the extended weekend to aid in his recovery from a stubborn groin injury.
“That’s what the bye week is for,” Burnett said minutes later. “To try to get healthy.”
Unfortunately for Burnett and the Steelers, that’s what all too much of his first season in Pittsburgh has been for.
Burnett has been limited to two games and seven full practices over the first six weeks of the regular season -- and there seems to be no end in sight for how long the Steelers’ expected starting strong safety will remain out.
“I am just taking it day by day,” Burnett said. “I don’t know what’s in the future for me.”
The nine-year veteran said there are no plans for surgery or any procedure to cure what seems to have turned into a chronic groin ailment.
“No,” Burnett said, in what was a rare occasion of speaking to reporters over the past month. “I just take it day by day.”
After taking part in the first training camp practice July 26, he suffered an injured groin that kept him from practicing more often than not throughout the remainder of camp and the preseason.
Burnett played in two of the four preseason games and was used in a limited role during the regular-season opener Sept. 9 at Cleveland. Rookie Terrell Edmunds started in his place, which was not exactly what the Steelers had in mind for Burnett when they gave him a three-year, $14.5 million contract in March to replace Mike Mitchell as their starting strong safety.
Burnett started the Week 2 loss to Kansas City but hasn’t played since.
Over the past five practice weeks according to the Steelers’ official injury reports, Burnett has practiced fully once and practiced on a limited basis three times.
After none, though, has his groin responded in a way that allowed him to practice at all the following day.
“Any time you have any injury you want to try to get back as soon as possible,” Burnett said, “but your body’s got a mind of its own.
“I am confident in what I can do as a player,” he said moments later, “it’s just that as a competitor you always want to be out there and compete.”
In lieu of that, Burnett has been relegated to playing the role of mentor for Edmunds, the Steelers’ first-round pick whose locker was placed next to Burnett’s.
Edmunds has been a willing protégé, saying he takes something from Burnett on an almost-daily basis.
“If he sees something in practice that I need to develop or get better at, he’s going to help me out,” Edmunds said. “And even at the game he is on the sidelines, so he is talking to us each and every play.... because he’s a part of the team, too, so he tries to make sure that we’re the best team out there.”
Burnett said the groin injury suffered in the week prior to the Steelers’ Sept. 24 game at Tampa Bay is different than the groin injury that hindered him throughout camp. He also missed two late-season games last year because of a groin injury in addition to a 2016 game because of one.
Burnett is one of two veteran safeties the Steelers signed in the offseason who haven’t been on the field much this season; Nat Berhe went on injured reserve Oct. 2 because of a torn pectoral muscle.
That has prevented the Steelers from perhaps being as creative they wanted to be with their secondary under new defensive backs coach Tom Bradley. During camp, for example, the Steelers showed a seven-DB look.
“Morgan gives us a chance to get a bigger body in there,” Bradley said. ”...Morgan can play a lot of positions for us; he has a lot of versatility. There’s a lot of different things he can do.
“I think he will be an impact player when he gets involved.”
But when? No one seems to know.
“He’s getting better,” Edmunds said. “Can’t wait for him to be back out there, just to have that veteran guy in our secondary unit.
“I just know whenever he gets back he’s gonna come in and make plays.”
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