The Pittsburgh Steelers have spent the better part of the 2018 regular season trying to figure out how to settle the right outside cornerback position in their defense, the one starting spot that doesn’t appear to be secured—with the possible exception of strong safety. The intended starter is Artie Burns, but he has lost some starts and a bunch of playing time to Coty Sensabaugh.
This was supposed to be the former first-round draft pick’s breakout season, entering year three, but in spite of the fact that the Steelers brought in a new defensive backs coach who seemingly is a stickler for just the things that he needed to work on—fundamentals, tackling, and attention to detail—he has regressed under first-year coach Tom Bradley’s tutelage.
For his own part, however, he said during the Steelers’ bye this week that he is not worried about Burns. “We’ll get him going here”, he said.
While he acknowledged that Burns “has to play more consistent”, and that even Burns is aware of that, he added that “a lot of times you have to make sure you concentrate on every play and try to get all the things right: just all the little things, and we will get that together this week”.
Bradley also argued that he has been the victim of some bad luck, though I have a hard time accepting that unless he is including plays such as a touchdown in the Chiefs game that was not actually his fault despite some feeling as though it looked like it was.
“I think it’s a couple things that have happened along the way” that went against him, Bradley said. “We had some bad luck in some different situations, but I think we will be able to work it all out. A lot of times I think he gets some things that happen at inopportune times to him”.
Steelers fans spent the better part of a decade criticizing former defensive backs coach Carnell Lake for presumably presiding over the worst secondary in history, but Bradley’s first year on the job has produced even worse results.
Is it his fault, or is it the hand he’s been dealt? Is it somewhere in between? Are both of them at fault, and is Burns still salvageable at this point? He maintains publicly that he still has confidence in his abilities, even after his weekly miscues, another one of which gave up an ugly touchdown this Sunday.
It remains to be seen how the Steelers approach things heading into next week as they come out of their bye. They may install Sensabaugh or even Cameron Sutton as the starter. Or they may put Burns in there and tell him this is his chance to prove people wrong.