At this point in the offseason, we find that training camp is just around the corner for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the rest of the league, and a lot has changed for them over the course of the past several months. They have lost a number of players in free agency, through releases, and retirements. But they have also brought in a number of new faces to replace them.
We all know that roster turnover is an ever-present reality for today’s rosters, and it seems that over the course of the past half-decade or so even the Steelers have proven to be as susceptible to the annual shakeup as anybody. With that in mind, we should take the time to get to know some of the new faces with training camp soon to be here.
It would make sense to first start with the draft picks, since they tend to draw the majority of the attention, even if they might not necessarily be in line to receive the most playing time. At this point it makes little sense to start anywhere but the top, so this series will begin talking about first-round cornerback Artie Burns.
It is exceedingly rare for the Steelers to take a defensive back, specifically a cornerback, in the first round, but the fact that Burns came out as an underclassman made the selection all the more unique an experience. Of course, the union was in part forced upon both parties.
Burns chose to declare as a 20-year-old junior in large part because he had to. With a father already incarcerated and his mother suddenly passing away, he found himself responsible for not just his girlfriend and a young child, but also two younger siblings. It was the responsible thing to do to be able to provide for those who depend upon him.
The Steelers, meanwhile, it has been admitted, were more keen on cornerback William Jackson III, who was drafted one spot ahead of where Pittsburgh picked, selected by the AFC North’s own Bengals, who have now taken three cornerbacks in the first round in the past five years.
The origin of the union, however, says nothing about the lasting fruits it may bear, but nevertheless, Burns should not be expected to see a prominent role on the team’s defense this season. It may well be that second-round safety Sean Davis plays a bigger role in 2016 in the nickel defense than the first-round cornerback.
As an underclassman who often came off the field, it would not be surprising that Burns came out of college pretty raw, but he has natural physical abilities and athleticism that indicate that he can be honed into a quality starting cornerback.
It’s just that it might take a year or two. He may see a series here and there in select situations in which the Steelers allow him to use his natural bump and run abilities, but he shouldn’t be looked at as a favorite to win a starting spot or play much in sub-packages, unless Senquez Golson struggles.