The Pittsburgh Steelers guaranteed fourth-year cornerback Artie Burns a roster bonus of $800,000 yesterday for being on the 90-man roster on the third day of training camp, which is among the most typical times for roster bonuses to come due around the league. He celebrated by recording an interception (off of a tipped ball) during the Seven Shots period of the team’s first padded practice.
Through the first three days of training camp, Burns has been consistently running with the second-team defense on the outside behind starters Joe Haden and Steven Nelson, the two veteran cornerbacks that the Steelers have signed to big-money contracts over the course of the past three offseasons.
And he has been the only consistent player with that second-team unit, as a pair of third-year cornerbacks, Cameron Sutton and Brian Allen, have been taking turns manning the other spot on the outside. For Sutton, he has also taken snaps on the inside with that second unit.
“I’m just here to compete for the job that I want”, Burns told reporters at the outset of training camp, according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in an article that was posted in the evening. “That’s pretty much it. I already know what they have for me”.
Those on the outside don’t appear to know what is in store for Burns, many of whom wondered if he would even be on the 90-man roster when training camp opened. However, while he is still by no means guaranteed a spot on the 53-man roster when the regular season opens, he is at the moment well-positioned to retain a job with the Steelers through the final year of his contract.
And it is the final year after the Steelers earlier this summer declined to pick up his fifth-year option. He was a first-round pick in 2016, but had easily his worst season a year ago. He was demoted to rotational work with Coty Sensabaugh after two games, and then benched for good, outside of a couple of short stints, after six games.
The coaching staff and front office—even his teammates—have talked about the need for him to regain the confidence that he appeared to have lost after giving up a number of big plays through the first several games of the 2018 season.
Defensive coordinator Keith Butler is cautiously optimistic about Burns’ near future, telling Dulac that the young defender has “worked his butt off”, but added that it’s a “tough thing for him” to bounce back from being beaten, which all defensive backs go through.
He did that two days ago after James Washington got behind him for a quality long completion down the field. In spite of the one play, he came back to have a solid practice overall, and has shown generally well now for three days.