2016 South Side Questions: What Is The Role For Artie Burns?

The preseason has ended, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are taking their practices at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While training camp and the preseason might have seen a lot of work put into the team and the roster, there is plenty left to be done.

And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well, since the offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is really one that lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the preseason and beyond looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they head into a regular season in which they are, at least supposed to be, among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.

Question: What sort of role might Artie Burns play during his rookie season after missing most of the past month?

Even when the Steelers drafted cornerback Artie Burns in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft, they had to be figuring that they were not getting a day-one starter, and with the events that have transpired since then, that will clearly not be the case—not that anybody of merit with a pulse on the team really anticipated that that would happen.

A raw underclassman, many were even skeptical of Burns’ value as a first-round draft pick, but the Steelers felt they couldn’t risk losing the last cornerback on the top tier of their board, and so they pulled the trigger on him when their turn came in the first round.

Since then, he has shown all the growing pains you might imagine, and was taken to school on a daily basis by Antonio Brown. Then he suffered a quad injury that resulted in him missing most of training camp and all but the final preseason game, which begs the question of just how much he can be counted on to play at all.

He did finally return to full practice recently, and he was said to have recorded a pick-six against the first-team offense, following that up with two more interceptions on the next day. He played most of the way through the Steelers’ preseason finale last night and got his hands on a couple of passes.

Burns was running with the second-team starters, but he also saw time on the outside in the dime defense in practice with the starting defense, which is a package that they used fairly frequently last in the season a year ago.

Was that only because Shamarko Thomas was injured, forcing the team to move Sean Davis from the slot to safety and William Gay from the outside to the slot? Or will the Steelers continue to play that look with all players healthy when the regular season comes around? I don’t think that Burns’ play last night did anything to dissuade from that.

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