When it comes to the defensive side of the ball for the Pittsburgh Steelers, there is one position that seems to be open for competition that most people wish wasn’t so open at inside linebacker. Then there is another at outside linebacker that doesn’t appear to be open that people wish was. And then there’s right outside cornerback, where we’re really not quite sure where things stand.
Artie Burns has been the starting right outside cornerback on a full-time, basically every-snap basis for about a season and a half, but had been playing there since the first game of his rookie season in the dime package, and then the nickel.
He started and played in all 16 games there in 2017, but he didn’t exactly lock things down. So there are people wondering if second-year cornerback Cameron Sutton, a third-round pick a year ago who spend most of his rookie season on injured reserve but came off to start a game opposite Burns, will be given the opportunity to challenge him.
The Steelers haven’t had a ton of competition at cornerback recently. Burns didn’t have any challengers a year ago. There was a feeble competition between Ross Cockrell and Coty Sensabaugh before the signing of Joe Haden nullified that. You’d have to go back to Cortez Allen competing with Keenan Lewis back in 2012, or Lewis challenging Bryant McFadden in 2011, for the last semi-serious competition.
Bob Labriola, hater of bloggers and surely hater of this article if he comes across it, indicated yesterday that he is under the impression it could happen this summer. In answering a question about who was going to start opposite Burns, the veteran writer corrected the Crestline, Ohio native’s confusion: Haden is the one with the security.
Burns, on the other hand, “may find himself in a competition with Cam Sutton”, Labriola wrote. “I believe Burns is the better player”, he went on to write, and that he will prevail in the camp competition, but he’s going to have to prove that through the preseason”.
At least for the moment, Sutton does appear to be the only cornerback with a reasonable chance to compete for a starting job. Sensabaugh’s shot at any sort of meaningful role ended in the first half of the first Bengals game last season, while Brian Allen is just trying to prove he can be trusted as a backup.
It will have to wait another month or so, but it will definitely be interesting to see how Sutton is handled during training camp. He did get a couple of days during OTAs running with the first-team defense in Burns’ spot earlier this spring, but that opportunity came about because Burns was not at the facility those days, for undisclosed reasons.