Now that training camp is underway, and the roster for 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 move forward.
Player: CB Artie Burns
Stock Value: Up
Don’t look now, but here comes Artie. The 2016 first-round draft pick had been thrown out with the bathwater by many, but so far he remains very much in the Steelers’ plans, though in exactly what capacity it is not immediately clear.
For the time being, Burns has been functioning as the number three outside cornerback, although he has gotten a lot of time, even going back to the spring, working with the first-team defense, with Joe Haden being given time off.
I think by now the readers of this site are well-acquainted with his story. Drafted as a player who needs grooming, he started his career in the dime before transitioning into the nickel role after a few games, emerging full-time as a starter halfway through the year.
He would retain that starting spot through the first two games of the 2018 season, at which point he would be demoted, serving in rotational work with Coty Sensabaugh. He would continue to do so for a few more games before being benched entirely, playing only a handful of snaps from that point forward.
The young defensive back himself at that time talked about struggling with his confidence, but he has taken a very business-like approach to this offseason, staying in Pittsburgh to train at the facility, even sitting on meetings and trying to gain a broader understanding of the defense and his place within it.
And his work on the field has been improved. Though that has been nothing out of the ordinary for this time of year—his primary struggles have come in-game, frequently because of technique or schematic failures of comprehension on his part—you obviously want to see him having some type of success on the field.
One thing I thought was worth noting was Teryl Austin’s observation that Burns has displayed mental resilience so far. When he gets beat for a play, he just goes right back to the line ready for the next challenge. The ultimate challenge will be for him to make the roster, though, and from there, finding a role on defense again. Will it be just as a backup in case of injuries, or will there be other opportunities?