The Pittsburgh Steelers were able to scratch and claw their way to a 17-10 win over their nemesis, the New England Patriots. It was a tremendous effort on both sides of the ball, but one play really stuck out to the Steelers’ faithful.
The 63-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Chris Hogan on their first drive of the game which tied the score and left Hogan untouched as he walked into the endzone.
Shades of the 2016 AFC Championship game where Hogan torched the Steelers was running through everyone’s mind, and quickly the fan base wanted answers. Who was to blame for the gaffe in the secondary?
Without knowing for sure, it seemed as if Artie Burns was to blame. After all, the Steelers had spent the past week talking about Burns starting over Coty Sensabaugh opposite Joe Haden. Burns got the start, the big play happened, and he never saw a defensive snap after.
Seems like case closed, right?
When asked about it in his post-game press conference, Mike Tomlin said the play was not Burns’ fault, and instead shouldered the blame himself.
Tomlin said TD pass to Hogan was NOT Artie Burns fault so there's that.— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) December 17, 2018
Tomlin went on to talk about how the coaching staff felt better with Coty Sensabaugh, and his veteran leadership, in the game over the fragile Burns.
At this point in time fans will glean whatever they want from these comments, but the fact remains if Burns had a great week of practice, looked good and the big play wasn’t his fault — why take him out of the game?
If you say you have the confidence in a player to be inserted as the starter vs. the Patriots of all teams, how can his leash be so short that he was yanked for a play which didn’t fall on his shoulders?
In this regard, Tomlin is at least consistent. Burns wasn’t the only player who was inserted into a starting role, but so was Cam Sutton. Sutton too started the game, but was relieved by Mike Hilton in the early portions of the game. Sutton resumed his role in specific sub packages, but otherwise went back to his usual spot with the team.
Maybe these “changes” were nothing but window dressing, and a way to somehow keep things locked up regarding personnel groupings against an opponent who has gotten the best of the Steelers on more than one occasion. Either way, Burns will now have to hope for another shot against another stellar offense in Drew Brees and the Saints.
If I were a betting man, I wouldn’t put money on Burns being the starter against that offense next week.