Personally, I put next to no stock in Cameron Sutton telling reporters recently that he took first-team reps at right outside cornerback this week. I certainly don’t think they are going to be benching Artie Burns. At most, perhaps Sutton gets some rotational work.
With the return of Joe Haden, who needs all the reps that he can get back on the left side, it stands to reason that the only spot open is on the right side. The coaching staff was willing to let Burns take a back seat some in practice in order to get Sutton some needed work, which is important if he is to be the top backup on the outside.
I think the more telling of his recent statements is the fact that he has not, as of yet, been given any practice reps since he has been activated along the inside, in slot work. He recently told Chris Adamski that he had only worked at both outside spots, and not inside, though he said that could change in future weeks.
While Sutton did give up a short touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks against the Patriots, his work in the game has generally been praised, especially given the fact that it was his first career start and only the third game in which he has played. He did miss a tackle in the run game that allowed a conversion.
His playing time became necessary because of the struggles of Coty Sensabaugh, who was the first man up to try to replace Haden once he suffered a leg injury in Week 10. Sensabaugh had not seen a snap on defense prior to that, and since has essentially been benched. He has been dealing with injuries in the past two weeks, as well.
But while Burns has been inconsistent, it would seem to me a huge stretch to gather that the team would actually bench him, even for a game. That would be an extreme and excessive measure for the young player, in spite of the fact that many Steelers fans would like to see just that scenario play out.
I personally would rather year about Sutton getting work on the inside. The Steelers drafted him in part because of their belief in his versatility to play both inside and outside, and because of his football intelligence, to understand what every player on the defense is supposed to be doing.
Burns and Haden are the team’s outside cornerbacks, at least for the rest of the season, provided that they are healthy. I don’t see that changing unless Burns really falls on his face, which he hasn’t. But could they give him a wake-up call of sorts by throwing Sutton in there for a drive or two? Sure.
The third-round pick’s late-season emergence as a contributor is making the 2017 NFL Draft class look just a bit better. While they already appear to have hit home runs with T.J. Watt and JuJu Smith-Schuster, finding another contributing cornerback will never be frowned upon.