Fourth-year Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Artie Burns has been the subject of a lot of discussion over the course of the past couple of weeks after a number of outlets covered the reality that he is due a roster bonus nearing $1 million early in training camp.
Given the fact that he appears to be battling for something close to a fringe roster spot, there has been speculation over the possibility of his being released prior to that bonus coming due. The Steelers are also in a tough spot with their salary cap, so they can’t afford to be charitable just to give a player a chance if they are skeptical.
The team already decided earlier this offseason, to nobody’s surprise, that they would not pick up Burns’ fifth-year option a year after he was benched and demoted to third-string, largely seeing time in the second half of the year only on special teams.
“I can’t control that”, Burns told reporters yesterday. “That’s the front office. The only thing you can control is what I go out there and do. Whatever deal they’ve got in mind for me, that’s on them”. He added, “it’s a business move”.
This offseason, the Steelers signed Steven Nelson in free agency to replace Burns in the starting lineup. He figures to pair with Joe Haden as the starters in the 3-4 defense, but with Haden getting time off through OTAs, it was the former who got snaps with the first-team group, as we have previously written about.
Still, Burns is aware of all the possibilities, and he was asked about those. Specifically, a reporter asked him if it would be better for the team to cut ties with him now if he didn’t figure into their plans. “It’s on what they want to do”, he said. “They still got me here, so I can’t think about that”.
He added that he’s a Steeler “’til I’m not”.
So the question is, how much longer will he be a Steeler? When they drafted him, the plan was obviously for him to be a Steeler for a long time to come, but assuming that he makes it to his fourth training camp in Latrobe, there’s no guarantee he makes it out, or at least into the regular season.
One thing that Burns has in his favor is the fact that he is still quite young. Even with three years of experience, heading into year four, he is only 24 years old, having turned that age at the start of May. He was just 20 at the time that he was drafted.
Plenty of players have taken off at the age of 24 or older. Burns has had a shaky, and then rough, beginning over the course of his first three seasons, but he does have all the physical tools to be successful. If he can get his head right and master the playbook, there is no reason should be unable to do the job.