What is in store right now for Artie Burns? There isn’t any clarity, at least I don’t think, at the moment. The only defensive snaps that the former first-round pick has played since the Pittsburgh Steelers bye week has been in mop-up action at the tail end of Thursday night’s blowout, during which time he committed the team’s only penalty of the entire game, a pass interference in the end zone that set up a touchdown.
It was a couple of games back during which Head Coach Mike Tomlin seemed to allow the inference that Coty Sensabaugh had won the starting job, yet at the same time he also complimented Burns for having good weeks in practice.
My question, though, is this: who is the real backup? If Sensabaugh were to be injured or benched due to performance, would Burns be the one that the Steelers put into the game? Or would they turn to Cameron Sutton, who has been struggling to see the field since the return of Morgan Burnett displaced him in the dime role?
Sutton has played on both the left and right side as well as in the slot and as the dime back so far this season. He came into the first game after the bye when Sensabaugh left with a toe injury, but Burns was being disciplined at the time.
Is the fact that he was inserted into Thursday’s game a sign that he has regained his place as the next man up, or did he only play because it was a blowout? I’m sure Tomlin will be asked about Burns’ position in the pecking order today and about his potential for moving back into his old role.
At least for the moment, the veteran Sensabaugh appears to be playing reasonably well. He is certainly not a difference-maker but can generally be trusted to be in the position that he is supposed to be in, which is a significant step up from what Burns has shown during his regression.
It is because of that that I have a hard time imagining an easy path back onto the field in a meaningful circumstances for Burns, similar to the manner in which Jarvis Jones was benched in favor of James Harrison at the end of the 2016 regular season, after which Jones hardly played at all, even going to a healthy scratch at one point, if memory serves.
While Sensabaugh might be reliable from an assignment standpoint, however, I wouldn’t mind seeing Sutton being given an opportunity to play at the right cornerback spot either, if not in a rotation then at least as the immediate backup.