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
From the sounds of it—and those sounds came from the man himself—Artie Burns is going to start for the Steelers tomorrow night at right outside cornerback. Not because he earned it, but because starter Steven Nelson is not fully healthy.
While Nelson is officially listed as questionable to play, and it’s possible that he could still dress, it doesn’t seem as though he is going to be able to start, even if he could be used in an emergency situation. Even that, however, remains to be seen.
As for Burns, it’s a huge opportunity. It’s his first real start in over a year. While he got the opportunity to start against the New England Patriots late last season, the coaches pulled the plug on that experiment after just a handful of defensive snaps, even though the big play that motivated that decision wasn’t on him.
The team’s first-round pick back in 2016, Burns had a good rookie season, but has regressed in each year since, to the point that he was first demoted last year, after just two games, rotating with Coty Sensbaugh, before being benched outright, only playing when an injury situation arose.
His job was very much under threat this offseason, but he put in good work throughout the spring and summer, even sitting in on coaches’ meetings to gain a better understanding of how the defense and game-planning works.
He did enough to preserve his spot on the 53-man roster, even if he has largely been limited to serving different roles on special teams.
It is somewhat noteworthy that, at least from the reports, the Steelers are opting to start Burns rather than Cameron Sutton, who has ostensibly outplayed him, but this could be a decision motivated partly by a desire to retain Sutton’s versatility, as he is also their dime/dollar defender and is capable of playing throughout the back end of the unit, while Burns is essentially exclusively an outside cornerback.