The hallmark of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ success of the 2000s in the early years of General Manager Kevin Colbert’s time with the team was their ability to consistently land strong contributors in the first round, if not future Hall of Fame talents. Those players were the backbone of two Super Bowl-winning teams.
Unfortunately, the team’s track record since their last Super Bowl win has been more suspect. While they have landed on hits such as Maurkice Pouncey, Cameron Heyward, David DeCastro (three years in a row), and T.J. Watt (several years later), many in between haven’t lived up to their draft status.
One of the more frustrating of those players has been Artie Burns, the cornerback drafted in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. While he emerged as a starter by the middle of his rookie season, during which he intercepted three passes, things have regressed since then.
It got to the point where he was not just demoted but benched during the 2018 season. He hardly played at all following the bye week in Week Seven, and those came chiefly in unusual circumstances, such as injury.
Colbert commented on Burns’ status heading into the 2019 season, and of the fact that the Steelers have to decide over the next months whether or not they want to pick up his fifth-year option, while he spoke to a group of local reporters on Wednesday.
“Artie Burns, unfortunately, Artie took a step backwards last year. It’s not something we haven’t talked about with him”, he told reporters, per the transcript provided to us by Will Graves of the Associated Press.
“It was pretty much like [kicker Chris Boswell] did, not as drastic because Artie technically wasn’t a starter from a certain point in the season, and Artie has got to find his confidence”, Colbert went on. “He really does. That’s something that we talk to him about. He’s got to re-find it”.
Prior to his benching, Burns talked pretty openly about having gotten his confidence shaken following a string of games in which he was beaten for a number of big plays. While he expressed belief in his ability to overcome it, he understood the situation he was in.
“Does he have the talent? Have we seen it? Have we seen him be productive? We have, but unfortunately last year he took a step back, and again, we’ll find out if he can find it”, Colbert wrapped up on the three-year veteran. “Is that going to stop us from challenging his position with other players? Absolutely not because he has to prove that he can do it”.
Now, that doesn’t exactly sound like an endorsement as it pertains to the team’s consideration of picking up Burns’ fifth-year option. While that wasn’t exactly expected to happen, these remarks make it crystal clear. Instead of a fifth year on his contract, he’s going to have his roster spot vigorously challenged, as he should.