2016 South Side Questions: Do Steelers Need To Scale Things Back For Rookie DBs?

The regular season is here, 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 the real work is now upon us, there is plenty left to be done.

And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is 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 regular season and beyond looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they wade through a regular season in which they are, at least supposed to be, among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.

Question: Do the Steelers need to scale things back for their rookie defensive backs?

This season, the Steelers have been relying quite a bit on rookie defensive backs, albeit ones of high pedigree, drafted in the first and second rounds. Second-round safety Sean Davis opened the season as the team’s starting slot cornerback, and also rotated in at safety in the team’s dime defense.

Last week, the Steelers flipped rookies and promoted first-round cornerback Artie Burns to the role of nickel back, only Burns plays outside rather than in the slot. Although he has served previously as the team’s nickel back, yesterday’s game was the first in which he played that role due to his own merits rather than due to the fact that the team was dealing with injuries.

After yesterday’s game, however, one might have to wonder if they are reconsidering that tactic, as Burns struggled in a number of different ways, both in the running back and in the pass game. the Dolphins ripped off several runs of 10 yards or more in his direction, and he was also responsible for failing to carry the outside go route on a 39-yard strike on a broken play that led to Miami’s first touchdown of the game two plays later.

The coaching staff has already talked about the fact that they were looking to scale back what they were asking Davis to do, and I’m actually not entirely sure if Davis even played on defense in this game, at least as of the time that I am writing this. If he did log time, he did not log any statistics.

Burns, however, did, and his statistics were largely a product of making up for his mistakes in coverage, as on the long ball that he gave up. The Steelers knew that he was going to be raw, but he really looked like it, perhaps more than ever up to this point, yesterday.

I can’t help but wonder if they might consider looking at Justin Gilbert as their nickel back if things continue to progress as they have—or rather, as they haven’t. But then again, this coaching staff has a tendency to be slow to pull players.

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