On paper, the 2016 Pittsburgh Steelers have very few weak spots based on their projected starting offensive and defensive units. With that said, when asked to identify the weak spots of all 32 teams at the end of May, Gregg Rosenthal, the editor for Around The NFL, chose an obvious area of concern when it comes to the Steelers.
“The Steelers having cornerback problems is a Pittsburgh tradition as old as meat, Italian bread and french fries. The team hopes defensive coordinator Keith Butler’s system is easier to learn than Dick Lebeau’s heady scheme, which would allow first-round pick Artie Burns to see the field faster (not to mention second-round safety Sean Davis). Other than William Gay and his glorious celebrations, there is not a lot to rely on here,” writes Rosenthal.
Rosenthal hits on the most obvious thing here and with good reason as the current Steelers secondary depth chart includes just two cornerbacks who logged extensive playing time last season in the form of William Gay and Ross Cockrell. With that said, outside of adding another veteran cornerback via free agency this offseason, the Steelers did address the position with their first selection in the 2016 NFL Draft in the form of former Miami cornerback Artie Burns.
The fact that Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler has already instituted a scheme, that by several accounts is easier for younger players to learn, gives us all hope that Burns will be able to see the field during his rookie season sooner rather than later. Additionally, assuming that second-year cornerback Senquez Golson hasn’t already suffered another significant injury during the team’s first week of OTA practices that wrapped up this past Thursday, he will be expected to contribute right away during the 2016 season as either a starter outside or a slot defender in the team’s sub package unit.
While it is indeed easy to point to the Steelers younger cornerbacks as a main concern heading into the 2016 season, let’s not lose sight of the fact that the defense’s front seven also needs to take another step forward in Butler’s second year calling the shots. Specifically, this year’s front seven needs to put even more pressure on opposing quarterbacks from the outside linebacker positions in 2016 as last year that positional group only provided 15 of the team’s 47 total sacks during the regular season. Should that positional unit’s production indeed increase in 2016, it should also help out the play of the back end of the defense as well.