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: Rather than Artie Burns, Cameron Sutton should be the next man up at cornerback behind Steven Nelson and Joe Haden.
Explanation: When the Steelers found themselves without starting right outside cornerback Steven Nelson this past week, they turned not to Cameron Sutton, who had a strong offseason and actually had a regular defensive role in sub-packages, but to Artie Burns, who can probably be safely classified at this point as a failed starter.
While Burns seemingly held up reasonably well in his start on Sunday out west, Sutton has clearly shown to be the better football player, particularly from a mental perspective. The defense’s primary concern right now is not making mistakes, and nobody has had more mental errors in recent years for them than Burns.
Equally important is the fact that Sutton has shown that he can ball. He came down with three passes defensed on Sunday, including the game-clinching interception with less than two minutes to play from Philip Rivers. Burns only has one interception since his rookie season.
There are two arguments to make here, the first being simply that Burns has the experience. Sutton has started a couple of games, but he was pulled the last time in favor of Coty Sensabaugh, so that’s not exactly a bringing endorsement. While Burns was benched last year, he has a number of starts under his belt from which to draw. Sutton does not.
And then there is the very helpful and convenient fact that he actually played a solid game for the Steelers on Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers. It was nothing flashy, and he was largely a player going unmentioned until he committed a foul late in the game, but that’s what you would want with a backup cornerback in the game: to not hear about him.