Sunday was a big day for the Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Artie Burns as him still being on the roster after practice started resulted in him earning the $800,000 roster bonus that was due him as part of his rookie contract. Paying Burns that roster bonus now means that amount will become dead money should the Steelers ultimately decide to release or trade their former first-round draft pick out of Miami prior to the start of the 2019 regular season. On Monday, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert was a guest on 93.7 The Fan and he was asked if Burns being paid that roster bonus now essentially means he’ll make this year’s 53-man roster.
“No, I mean, every situation, every contract, you have to look at and make the decision whether or not you can afford to do such things based on where a player might be in their play,” Colbert said. “So, again, we’re not comfortable with where Artie is, we’re comfortable in the fact that we know he’s going to be out here and compete and provide us not only good competition, but ,you know, good depth if he’s not the starter.”
While Burns probably shouldn’t be considered a guaranteed lock to make this years 53-man roster, predicting him to do so would likely be the smart bet. Entering the Steelers fourth training camp practice of 2019, Burns appears to be the primary backup to both starting outside cornerbacks, Joe Haden and Steven Nelson. Currently behind Burns on the cornerback depth chart are quite a few players younger than him and most lack real-game experience. That list of players includes Cameron Sutton and Brian Allen, two former draft picks, and rookie Justin Layne, a third-round draft pick this year. Of those three, Sutton is the only one with real-game experience and that mostly came with him playing in the slot last season and thus not outside. Filling out the rest of the training camp depth chart at cornerback are Herb Waters, Marcelis Branch and rookie undrafted free agent Alexander Myres. Those three are likely battling for one practice squad spot this year.
For whatever it’s worth, Burns appears to be having a nice start to this year’s training camp. However, as Alex Kozora has already stated a few times this past offseason, Burns always seems to show well during training camp. The Steelers certainly can’t have Burns come close to repeating his 2018 season as not only did he play very poorly in coverage, he was highly penalized to boot. That conglomeration of several poor showings in the first six weeks of the 2018 regular season resulted in Burns being benched for the pretty much the remainder of the year.
For now, Burns will remain with the Steelers and probably at least through the entire preseason. Will he show the Steelers in the coming weeks that last year’s hot mess of a display by him at cornerback can be moved on from and that he can start playing much, much better in coverage? Time will tell and Colbert expects Burns to work hard to do just that during the next five weeks.
“So, one thing about him [Burns], he’s never stopped working and never stopped trying,” Colbert said Monday. “We just want him to get back to the form he really had as a rookie.”