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: Who will emerge at the right outside cornerback position by the end of the season?
Head Coach Mike Tomlin reaffirmed yesterday that the team’s plan going forward is to continue to utilize a rotation at the right cornerback position, with nobody having stepped up to claim it as their own. Given that they already thought they had a starter, that is a particularly egregious problem.
That would be Artie Burns, who until Monday night started every game since the middle of his rookie season. But in the team’s last contest, he was passed over in favor of Coty Sensabaugh, the two proceeding to rotate every other series or so.
Both of them made a play or two, but allowed their opponents to make several against them. combined, they had a nearly perfect quarterback rating when targeted. Second-year cornerback Cameron Sutton may be added to the mix as well.
Given the lack of stability here, the presence of Joe Haden is even more important. Without him—well, they’ll look like they did against the Kansas City Chiefs I guess. But at some point, the Steelers are going to have to settle on one player.
It would be to the Steelers’ benefit if it is Burns that ultimately emerges as the player who seizes control of the position. After all, that is what he was drafted to do. The team has a big decision to make in the offseason about his future as well: whether or not to pick up his fifth-year option.
But it’s best to find out this season what they have in him, and if he isn’t able to take control of a starting job from this point on, then it’s virtually impossible to imagine that the team would pick up his option. The odds of Sensabaugh entering the 2019 season as a starter—or perhaps even being on the roster—would seem to be low.