The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, in which they entered with big aspirations, in spite of a tumultuous start to the offseason. Significant players were lost via trade and free agency, players who have helped shape the course of the franchise in recent years. We even now sit here without Ben Roethlisberger after just two games.
The team made some bold moves this offseason and in some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago. That would especially be the case at wide receiver and inside linebacker, where they have new starters. And quarterback was suddenly added to that list.
How will the season progress without Roethlisberger, behind Mason Rudolph? How will the young players advance into their expected roles? Will the new coaches be up to the task? Who is looking good in games? Who is sitting out due to injury?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: How will Artie Burns hold up in his first significant action in about a year?
The last time that Artie Burns was even part of a meaningful rotation of defensive snaps for the Steelers was roughly a year ago, when the Steelers played the Cincinnati Bengals in Week Six of the 2018 season. He started the first two games, but rotated with Coty Sensabaugh for the next four before being benched for the remainder of the season following the bye week.
This year, there is no discussion about what his role is. Essentially, he is not going to play unless there is an injury to an outside cornerback, but if there is, then he will start. In this case, unfortunately, starting right outside cornerback Steven Nelson has been ruled out for tonight’s game, and in fact has not even traveled with the team. Burns himself said he will start after taking almost all the first-team reps.
Many, if not most, already regard this as a lost season for the Steelers, sitting at 1-4 on the year, even if they are only two games behind the Baltimore Ravens for the division lead, and need them to lose only one more game to regain control of their own playoff fate.
If the team has any hope of salvaging the year, however, they have to start putting together some wins, and that will take Burns actually playing well, or at least competently, keeping the ball in front of him rather than allowing big plays because he is confused about his assignment, beaten on a double move, or afraid to close in on a player for fear of losing him over the top.