With the Pittsburgh Steelers set to hold their mandatory three-day minicamp on Tuesday, there is every chance that this could be the final time Artie Burns will ever wear the Black and Gold.
Due a roster bonus of $800,000 on the first day of training camp towards the end of July, the former first-round draft pick from 2016 is running out of opportunities to convince the coaching staff he is worth keeping around. The addition of Steven Nelson via free agency was a clear sign the team will be looking elsewhere for a starter this season and the selection of Justin Layne already had him in a precarious position regardless of the financial considerations.
But with Pittsburgh sitting at just $984,968 under the cap as of Monday, releasing a player who figures to be a part-time backup in return for a total cap saving of $1,757,862 might be too tempting to ignore. Bringing him to Latrobe is essentially an $800,000 gamble that he will show enough to make the final 53-man roster and that is a wager few outsiders would be willing to make based on his past performances.
Despite a promising rookie season, Burns appeared to regress in 2017 and that decline would continue into his third year, ultimately costing him his job and any real semblance of playing time towards the end of the season. After starting every game in his second season, Burns would be limited to just six starts in 2018 and would barely see the field after the bye week, registering just 14 snaps in the final 10 games and not playing on defense at all in seven of them.
The Steelers opened the season with five cornerbacks in the roster last year and seem unlikely to keep anymore than six this time around. Assuming Joe Haden, Nelson, Layne, and Mike Hilton are locks, Burns is left fighting with Brian Allen, Cameron Sutton and a whole host of futures signings for what might be the final slot.
The upcoming three-day training session will arguably be more important to Burns than any other player on the roster, but if he cannot do enough to convince the coaching staff he can bounce back at Latrobe, there seems little point in paying him the $800,000 to find out what they already know. Much like with Chris Boswell, perhaps his best shot of making it to training camp would be to agree to defer his roster bonus until the final preseason game.