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: Up
You probably saw this coming, but it can’t be passed over. With it recently being reported outside of the confines of paywall publications that Artie Burns spent most of OTAs running with the first-team defense, it’s fair to say that his stock is trending in an upward direction.
That doesn’t mean that he is going to start, or even be the backup, or, frankly, even make the team. Getting some reps in OTAs isn’t going to mean a lot in training camp. But it probably indicates that the team does intend to keep him into training camp, which isn’t insignificant.
With the Steelers owing him a $800,000 roster bonus on the third day of camp, and his not even having a roster spot guaranteed, there was—in truth, remains—a realistic possibility that the team would decide to release him if they felt that he was, at best, competing for a fringe roster spot and wouldn’t even have a role on the defense.
Burns practiced a lot with the first-team defense because the team gave Joe Haden time off during OTAs. Entering his third season with the team and 10th in the league, it’s not as though he needs a ton of reps in May, after all. He kind of knows what he’s doing.
But last year, Cameron Sutton was the next man up, so the fact that they went to Burns is worth noting. They obviously want to see if he still has the potential to develop into not just a starter, but a reliable one, even as they have planned ahead without him, signing Steven Nelson in free agency.
Technically speaking, it’s not impossible that he can play so well that they do find playing time for him. Nelson could move into the slot, whether he or Burns starts on the outside, as the free agent signing’s flexibility gives them a number of options.
There’s such a long road between where we are now and that potential future, though, that it’s hardly worth spending any extra time over. For now, it’s enough to note that he had the opportunity to run with the first-team defense, a small token of the team’s belief in his ability to turn his career around.