The Pittsburgh Steelers played Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns without the services of third-year cornerback Artie Burns on defense, and there was a very clear reason, which Head Coach Mike Tomlin confirmed earlier today during his pre-game press conference: discipline.
A report surfaced yesterday that the reason the former first-round pick did not play on defense (he still saw 10 snaps on special teams) was because he was late to a walkthrough practice the day before Sunday’s game. Tomlin said exactly that when asked about it.
“He was late to a Saturday walkthrough, and then it was my choice not to play him”, he said specifically, but hastened to add that it is by no means a long-term phenomenon. “We’ll keep working with Artie. Man, he had a good week of practice last week. I don’t want to make more out of it than what it is, but he was late, and we wanted to be focused with the guys that were wired in and appropriately where they needed to be in the hours leading up to kickoff”.
As a result of his tardiness, Coty Sensabaugh was intended to play the full game until he suffered what Tomlin said today was a toe injury. After he left the field, Cameron Sutton, not Burns, replaced him in the lineup.
Burns “suffered the consequences”, Tomlin said, but added that they will “roll that ball back out and get back on task with him and others this week”. Asked if he is comfortable with playing Burns this week, he said, “I’ll let you know after I watch this week’s preparation, not only in regards to that, but Coty. We’ll let his availability be out guide in terms of whether he plays. I mean what I say when I say that”.
With Sensabaugh being monitored during the week as a result of his toe injury, it’s not 100 percent certain who will be physically available to the Steelers for the outside cornerback position come Sunday when they face the Baltimore Ravens, when Tomlin was asked if Sutton would be in consideration there, he said, “anybody on the 53 is a possibility, including Brian Allen”.
Allen, a second-year former fifth-round draft pick, spent the first few weeks of this season on the practice squad after being on the 53-man roster for the entirety of his rookie season. He was a healthy scratch on Sunday despite being an important special teams player, but he has yet to play a snap on defense.
Burns has struggled both physically and mentally in his performance on the field this year more than ever, which has led to his eventual demotion, going from starter to rotational player. It is currently unknown if there was any valid reason for his being late to Saturday’s walkthrough.