Steelers training camp preview: Deep group of young talent at CB
The Tribune-Review will examine each position on the Steelers roster as they prepare to report for training camp July 25 at Saint Vincent. Today’s installment looks at the nine cornerbacks:
Artie Burns : In his second season, Burns started all 16 games but did not put up any splashy numbers. He had just one interception and was prone to giving up the big play in the second half of the season. With cornerback being one of the deepest positions on defense, Burns needs to improve or risk being pushed by second-year corner Cameron Sutton.
Joe Haden : He hasn’t been available for a full season since 2014, and Haden’s first year with the Steelers included five games missed with a leg injury. This time, he had a full offseason in the organization to heal and get a better understanding of the defense. The Steelers hope he’ll continue to provide a steady presence on the left side of the secondary.
Mike Hilton : He arguably was the most pleasant surprise on defense last year, making the jump from undrafted player to starter in the slot. Hilton played all 16 games and got four starts. He contributed four sacks, including three in one game, and two interceptions. The drawback this year? He no longer will fly under the radar.
Coty Sensabaugh : His contributions were confined to special teams until Haden injured his leg. Sensabaugh made four starts but started losing snaps to Sutton at the end of that run. He was injured and inactive for the final two games, plus the playoff loss to Jacksonville. Given the amount of depth at the position, Sensabaugh could be hard-pressed to earn a spot on the 53-man roster.
Cameron Sutton : After missing 12 weeks because of a hamstring injury, Sutton saw his playing time increase down the stretch, and he started against New England. He is versatile enough to play anywhere in the secondary — even safety — and will replace the departed William Gay in dime packages.
Brian Allen : He was considered a project when the Steelers selected Allen in the fifth round of the 2017 draft, and he was used on special teams in 10 games. With a year spent learning the position at the pro level, Allen will use the preseason to show he’s ready to take snaps on defense. He had just one last season.
On camp roster
Dashaun Phillips : He spent last season on the practice squad after being acquired in a trade during training camp with the Washington Redskins. In the previous two seasons, he appeared in a combined 11 games.
Jamar Summers : He was one of two cornerbacks signed as a rookie free agent following the draft. At UConn, Summers had eight interceptions as a sophomore. In his final season, he played mainly as a hybrid defensive back and had one sack, one interception, seven passes defensed and one forced fumble.
Trey Johnson : The other undrafted free agent at cornerback, Johnson was a three-year starter at Villanova and opened eyes when he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds at the school’s pro day. As a senior, he had two interceptions and 13 passes defensed.
Will Sutton push Burns for playing time?
When coach Mike Tomlin told players at the end of minicamp to “assume more will be required of them,” perhaps he had Burns in mind. Burns will enter training camp as the starter at right cornerback but Sutton is ready to step in if Burns falters. Sutton was used at a myriad of spots during spring workouts, and he played on the first team for a few days when Burns was absent. Defensive coordinator Keith Butler likes Sutton’s intelligence and aptitude for learning the defense.
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at email@example.com or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.