With the 2017 NFL Draft now over and the bulk of the heavy lifting done with regard to the roster building process now out of the way, it is easier to begin to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand at certain positions, and what the implications might be of a variety of moves for certain players.
And take stock is what we shall do, as every move has ramifications up and down the roster, so now we will take a look at some specific players and see how the team’s moves during the course of the offseason thus far, and more specifically since the draft, have sent their stock rising, falling, or breaking even.
Player: CB Artie Burns
Stock Value: Up
I think it is quite reasonable to assume that no starter on the Steelers roster will be better in 2017 than they were in 2016 than second-year cornerback Artie Burns, whom Pittsburgh drafted in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
You can make a good case for that being Sean Davis, their second-round pick who played most of last season with a torn labrum and even began playing out of position. You can argue for Bud Dupree as well and his healthy, work-intensive offseason.
But give me Burns, the underclassman adjusting to a new life on and off the field during his rookie season after not even being a full-time starter during his college career. There is so much in his life right now that is more stable in comparison to last offseason that there simply is no comparison.
You can tell during his interviews during this offseason that he is extremely driven, and his confidence and determination to improve constantly has been fueled by his opportunity to gain playing experience during his rookie year, which has in hindsight proven to be invaluable, when many including myself believed he would hardly see the field.
I think it would be fair to say that Burns spent a lot of last season largely getting by with his natural abilities on the physical end of the spectrum as his mental side of the game grew slowly. You could see his incremental growth as the season progressed, and while there is still a lot of room for improvement, it was enough.
Now, in year two, it would not be enough. The Steelers need more from him. More breaks on the ball. More consistent reads against the run, with the solid tackling to back it up. More plays, period. The defense needs plays, especially out of the secondary. And he did get his hands on 16 passes, including three interceptions.
Especially if the Steelers intend to play more man coverage this season, which Burns seems to believe, and also to desire, he should only be that much more comfortable out there. Frankly, he wants the one-on-ones. Already he believes he can take any receiver in the game on. Why not? He already practices against Antonio Brown.
(Ed Note: Oops)