The journey toward Super Bowl LII ended far too prematurely for the Pittsburgh Steelers, sending them into offseason mode before we were ready for it. But we are in it now, and are ready to move on, through the Combine, through free agency, through the draft, into OTAs, and beyond.
We have asked and answered a lot of questions over the years and will continue to do so, and at the moment, there seem to be a ton of questions that need answering. A surprise early exit in the postseason will do that to you though, especially when it happens in the way it did.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring developments all throughout the offseason process, all the way down to Latrobe. Pending free agents, possible veteran roster cuts, contract extensions, pre-draft visits, pro days, all of it will have its place when the time arises.
Question: Will Tom Bradley be able to unlock Artie Burns’ talents and take his game to the next level?
There was a time in the not too distant past in which previous Steelers first-round picks would still be entering their third season with the team without having secured a full-time starting job. This was Cameron Heyward’s position heading into the 2013 season playing behind Brett Keisel and Ziggy Hood.
Heyward was far more ready to play out of the gates than was Artie Burns five years later, but the young cornerback got on the field in a full-time role much sooner than did the former, by almost two seasons in terms of games played.
An underclassman and somebody who was not an every-down player, Burns was actually 20 at the time that he was drafted. He is currently 23 years old and has about a year and a half of starting experience under his belt now, including four interceptions, though only one came last year in 16 games played.
There are some who are highly critical of the third-year player. I have seen more than a couple of commenters say that the Steelers should literally just release him because he is hurting the team that much. I’m not even going to entertain this strain of argument than to simply cast it aside.
That said, he is certainly a player who remains ‘in development’, and that is far from out of the ordinary for a player as young and relatively inexperienced as he is. in an earlier era of the game, and of the team, he would probably only begin competing for a starting job this year.
We have discussed some of the biggest flaws in Burns’ game often enough on this site over the course of his career. He has a new teacher this year in Tom Bradley, who comes in from the college level with a reputation of teaching in exactly the manner that Burns would seem to need. Will he be the push Burns needs to fully come into his own?