Now that the 2019 NFL Draft is underway, and the roster heading into the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we head toward training camp.
Player: CB Artie Burns
Stock Value: Down
Could this be the end of the line for veteran Steelers cornerback Artie Burns? Absolutely, it can be. The team’s first-round draft pick in 2016 is on the ropes and needs to come out swinging in training camp, provided that he even gets that far, just to hang on to, potentially a spot on the bottom of the depth chart.
Even with the team not bringing back Coty Sensabaugh, the addition of Steven Nelson as a starter in free agency and of Justin Layne in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft make the wide receiver room suddenly very crowded.
At the top of the depth chart is Joe Haden, their pretty much unquestioned number one at the position and one of their team leaders—who, believe it or not, they don’t have to release in order to sign their draft class.
Along with Nelson, there is Mike Hilton in the slot, and Cameron Sutton as well. Mike Tomlin just so happened to mention both of these players by name as versatile defensive backs who can also contribute at safety. They are both active special teamers as well, so it’s hard to imagine them going anywhere.
That already brings us up to five cornerbacks, which means there is likely, at best, only one more roster spot open for the position. It could go to Burns. Or it could go to Brian Allen, a former wide receiver conversion project who is going into his third year, is a legitimate special teams contributor, and frankly, has a cheaper contract.
With all that said, I do think the team still wants to give Burns every opportunity to earn his way onto the team, even while they are making moves that clearly show that they are in no way under the misapprehension that they can rely upon him.
Anything that Burns achieves from this point forward will be purely on merit. He can hardly have a misstep over the course of the next several months, I believe, if he wants to keep his job, because even if Allen doesn’t earn a roster spot, they don’t necessarily have to carry six cornerbacks. They only had five for a while last year until Allen was brought up from the practice squad.