I have over the course of the past several seasons turned to a series of articles around this time of year in which I looked to explore the issues and questions facing the Pittsburgh Steelers during the upcoming season and trying to identify the range of possibilities in which any given scenario can end.
I started out with a dual series called The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Take and switched last season to the Devil’s Advocate series. In an attempt to find a more streamlined solution with a title more suited to the actual endeavor, we are introducing a simple Buy Or Sell segment exploring whether the position statement is likely to be worth investing in as an idea.
The range of topics will be wide, from the specific to the general, exploring broad long-term possibilities to the immediate future of particular players. I will make an argument for why a concept should be bought into as well as one that can be sold, and you can share your thoughts on which is the more compelling case while offering your own.
Topic Statement: Artie Burns will come into his own this year with a breakout season.
For the purposes of this piece, let’s not set the bar for a ‘breakout’ season too high. We’re not talking about becoming a Pro Bowler all of a sudden. We’re just talking about legitimately settling into the role of a starter at the cornerback position whose status is in question for replacement.
Burns is just 23 years old as of the start of this month, and yet is entering his third season in the NFL, and second as a full-time starter. He has already flashed quite a bit of potential, but has some questions in his game that need to be addressed, those next steps that need to be taken before he can really solidify his long-term future in this role.
Which he should so, under the tutelage of Tom Bradley, who has said, among other things, that he feels the personnel he has in Pittsburgh is geared more toward man coverage. Having a fundamentalist at his side willing to let him play in man coverage more, plus the natural yearly growth of such a young player, should result in him delivering a strong season in 2018.
His age may argue in favor of the linger presence of ‘upside’, but all the upside in the world doesn’t mean anything if you never actually reach your potential, and Burns’ lack of growth during his second season is not a favorable sign for further growth this year.
There are many who feel that he is behind schedule in terms of where he should be. The fact that he got his hands on fewer passes was discouraging. He also continued to struggle to make tackles or carry out his assignments against the run.
That’s to say nothing of the not infrequent lapses that he would have in coverage, whether it is biting on something the offense showed to fool him or being unable to properly communicate with his teammates. There’s too much on his plate to expect much growth from last season in 2018.