The Pittsburgh Steelers certainly do not find themselves to be where they would have liked to be at the cornerback position, but when has that last not been the case? The team is bracing to be without Senquez Golson for the second straight year, a player whom they intended to inherit the slot position.
Golson spent time working with veteran William Gay this offseason, who told Ray Fittipaldo for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that “the team is losing a true nickel and an asset” with the second-year player suffering a Lisfranc injury that may require surgery.
While the Steelers drafted a cornerback in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft, it has been the safety that they drafted in the second round that has stepped up to take over Golson’s position, running with the first-team defense in the slot. Gay told Fittipaldo that Sean Davis will stay there, and that there are no plans for him to kick back inside.
But how does this all relate to that first-round cornerback, Artie Burns? Surely Golson’s injury must affect him somehow, though he appears strictly to be an outside cornerback, while the latter was ticketed to stay lined up inside.
You may be surprised to read that minicamp tryout signing Donald Washington was running with the first-team defense across from Ross Cockrell yesterday with Gay having been given a day off. But for the fact that Burns was also sidelined for the day for whatever reason, that would certainly be curious, though it does make one wonder about Doran Grant’s prospects.
The next time that Gay has one of his veteran days off, I would expect that Burns will be lining up on the right side of the defense with the first-team personnel, and that that would be reflective of what we would see in-season.
But with Golson’s injury, I see Burns as the next man up regardless of who goes down. Previously, had Golson been healthy and played, it would be Davis sliding into that role. Seeing as that has already happened, however, Gay figures to be ticketed as the second-string slot cornerback, which would force him to kick inside and allow Burns to take the field on the outside.
In spite of what it might seem, this is still the very early goings of this team-building process, having finished less than a full week’s worth of practices. The Steelers have yet to take the field for a preseason game. A lot can still happen within a month’s time.
I don’t think that any of that will get Burns into the starting lineup. But I also don’t think that any of that is likely to wrest from him the position as the next man up in the secondary—which may be true for the safety position as well, if Davis is asked to start in place of an injured safety.
He certainly still has a lot to work on, but he is working on it. He learns a bit more with every rep that he takes against Antonio Brown especially, but against everybody else as well, as he figures out what techniques work best for him. And the Steelers will be counting on him to have figured it out enough come September that they can put him on the field if somebody should go down.