The offensive and defensive players that will make-or-break the Pittsburgh Steelers

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On the defensive side of the ball, Pittsburgh needs everyone to step up. But above all else, Artie Burns needs to prove that he’s the advantage the Pittsburgh Steelers will need in 2017.

In his rookie season, Artie Burns showed that he’s the future of the Pittsburgh Steelers secondary. His 64 tackles and three interceptions were a great start to an NFL career, and now, he’s looking to do even more in his sophomore campaign.

This year, expectations should be somewhere near 60-plus tackles and 8 or 9 interceptions. Heck, with Cameron Sutton and Senquez Golson joining the mix, leaving Burns less responsibility, he could easily crack the double-digit interceptions mark in just his second year.

Yes, plenty of people believe that the linebacking core or T.J. Watt, Ryan Shazier, James Harrison and Bud Dupree, but realistically, they’re going to be fine. There’s no reason these four and Vince Williams shouldn’t dominate offenses in 2017, which leaves no question as to whether or not they’re make-or-break players.

Which brings us back to Burns. The secondary was hands down the biggest issue in Pittsburgh last season. With two rookies starting and almost no help depth wise, the Steelers were working with scraps trying to find a solution to their terrible coverage problems.

Well, in 2017, these two rookies are now looking like some of the best young players in the country, and the depth is twice as strong as it was in 2016. And at the top of all that secondary glamor, Artie Burns.

If Burns can handle some of the best wide receivers in the NFL like DeAndre Hopkins, Brandin Cooks, A.J. Green and plenty more, Pittsburgh takes a huge advantage against almost anyone. As long as opposing teams can’t use their strong receiving weapon, they most certainly aren’t going to put up crazy scores. With the Steelers’ offense, that will lead to a victory almost every single time.

Next: 5 greatest Steelers wide receivers of all time

The linebackers are needed, the safeties are needed, the bench is most definitely needed. But without a breakout season for Artie Burns, the Pittsburgh secondary isn’t going to be nearly as good as everyone hopes they can be. Which means this defense isn’t nearly as good as everyone hopes they can be.