The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Artie Burns will be the top backup cornerback on the outside over Cameron Sutton.
Explanation: While Cameron Sutton has come up a lot this offseason, having a very strong training camp and playing well in the preseason, it has been Artie Burns who has been given the opportunity to start and play in Joe Haden’s spot, really since OTAs.
While Sutton has certainly had a good offseason by any standards, it’s clear and has been all along that as long as Burns shows some indication of his ability to return to some form of competence that he would be considered the number three cornerback on the boundary.
That is why he has been working in Haden’s spot whenever he hasn’t been on the field, and that includes Sunday’s preseason game against the Titans. Sutton has his role as the number six defensive back, or at least one he will split between himself and Kameron Kelly, and perhaps Mike Hilton as well.
The Steelers want to have Burns back in the mix because, by pure talent, he is among the top of the position on the current roster. He also has more experience starting on the boundary than anybody else on the team short of Haden. As long as he’s not blowing his assignments and biting on double moves, he’s good. He can’t have to win every rep—nobody does—but just be where you’re supposed to be. And he’s done that.
Sutton has been at least the third-best cornerback on the roster throughout the summer, and the Steelers are consistently looking for ways to get him on the field. He is already projected to be the dime defender, and maybe will have a nickel package for himself as well.
His versatility is constantly praised. He’s started on the outside before. Burns will dress, but it will be to play on special teams. Sutton is the number four and the first man up at every position among the cornerbacks.