2018 South Side Questions: Is Burns Benching A Kneejerk Response?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.

How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Are the Steelers jumping the gun on toying with benching Artie Burns?

According to reports, the Steelers are entertaining the idea of removing third-year cornerback Artie Burns from his starting role in the defense for tomorrow’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He has started every game of his career since about the middle of his rookie season.

Burns was a first-round draft pick in 2016, the first cornerback the team had drafted that high in quite some time, and they were counting on him locking down a long-term starting role after a series of failures at the position in the years prior.

He was considered a borderline first-rounder at the time of the draft, an underclassman who still had a lot of growing to do in terms of his on-field play but with natural athletic ability. It was taken as a given that he would need time to develop.

Entering his third season, there were very good reports about the progress Burns had been making. He was said to have had a very good training camp, showing ball skills after he only intercepted one pass the previous season.

That seemed to be verified by his performance in the season opener, but he struggled significantly last week in the home opener against the Kansas City Chiefs. Now a week later, the team is rotating in Coty Sensabaugh, looking at the possibility of him starting.

Is this a kneejerk response to a bad game—which, frankly, nearly the entire defense had? Or will it serve the team’s interests well in the long run to bench him, even if for a game?

My concern is that the alternative to Burns is Sensabaugh. The journeyman veteran was a healthy scratch in the season opener—and now two weeks later he is going to start? Is this going to help the team win tomorrow’s game against Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, and company?

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