Pittsburgh Steelers third-year cornerback Artie Burns spent every game since about the middle of his rookie season in the starting lineup prior to Monday night’s game. With the former first-round draft pick struggling with the execution of his assignments and in his technique, the coaching staff decided to start Coty Sensabaugh over him and allow the two to rotate.
Head Coach Mike Tomlin confirmed after the game that the plan going forward is to continue to have both players play on the right side, perhaps with second-year cornerback Cameron Sutton also seeing some opportunities to contribute, until one of them actually lays claim to the job. Which is pretty open-ended.
Burns was asked after practice yesterday how they lined up that day and he confirmed that it was the same as in the game, the two cornerbacks rotating in working with the first-team defense. But he has seemed to take the whole affair in stride, and with the right attitude.
“It’s life, we go through stuff all the time. It determines who you are as a person”, Burns said, according to the team’s website. “I know I can make plays. That’s why they brought me here, to make plays. I just gotta make them routinely. I’m just not executing on plays I know I can make and that I made before. I just have to get back to the basics”.
Through the first three games, Burns has recorded 10 tackles to one pass defensed. He has given up a number of big plays in coverage, including three touchdowns over the course of the past two weeks that can be attributed directly to his failings. Yet he has also recorded a forced fumble and a safety.
“It’s definitely going to make or break me”, he said with a clear sense of awareness. He surely knows that he is in a pivotal season in which he has to perform. The Steelers have to decide next offseason whether or not to pick up the fifth-year option of his rookie contract.
Sensabaugh played the majority of the snaps on Monday, at a nearly two-to-one ratio. Said the elder veteran, “we both had some good plays, both had some things we can do a little better. It’s just something to work on moving forward”.
“We’re both looking forward to the opportunity this weekend”, he added. Of course he is looking forward to the opportunity, considering that he began the season as a healthy scratch and within three games had gotten a chance to start.
I think it’s fair to say that if Sensabaugh is starting, then something has gone wrong. That’s not meant to be some huge knock against him, but the Steelers obviously agree based simply on the fact that they chose not to dress him on a roster that only has five cornerbacks.