Steelers lose Artie Burns and Nick Vannett in free agency

The Steelers continue to lose players to the free-agent market. Here’s how losing Artie Burns and Nick Vannett will affect their depth at cornerback and tight end.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have parted ways with a handful of players from their 2019 roster. They waved goodbye to the newly retired Ramon Foster, while Mark Barron, Anthony Chickillo, and Johnny Holton were cap casualties. In addition, the Steelers lost guard B.J. Finney and linebacker Tyler Matakevich to free agency.

Now, two others have been snatched up as well – tight end Nick Vanett and cornerback Artie Burns. Vannett signed a two-year deal with the Denver Broncos, while Burns inked a one-year contract with the Bears. Details of their salaries have not yet been released:

The Steelers traded for Vannett early in the 2019 season. Vannett served as the team’s second tight end as rookie Zach Gentry clearly wasn’t ready to be forced into that role. The former third-round draft choice from Seattle caught 13 of 17 targets in Pittsburgh this year for 128 yards with no touchdowns. Vannett has always been much more of an inline blocker than a pass-catcher, and while he proved to be a capable player, it essentially cost the Steelers a fifth-round pick to rent him for 13 games in 2019.

Burns, on the other hand, may go down as one of the biggest draft busts in Steelers history. Despite being the 25th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Burns’ career was a big disappointment.

The young cornerback wasn’t terrible to begin his NFL career, as he churned out overall grades of 68.3 and 72.4 in his first two seasons in Pittsburgh, according to Pro Football Focus. However, his play took a dive in year three, and he seemed to have lost all confidence. When he was called upon, Burns had sloppy technique and committed penalties far too often.

With Eric Ebron signed earlier this week, we had to assume that Nick Vannett wasn’t going to return. Pittsburgh elected to restructure Vance McDonald’s contract to free up cap space this offseason. Their tight end outlook in 2020 should consist of Ebron, McDonald, and possibly Gentry as their number three.

At the cornerback position, Burns was hardly essential. The Steelers added Steven Nelson from the Chiefs in 2019 and Justin Layne via the draft last year, and Burns wouldn’t have stood much of a chance to make the roster in 2020. He will look to revive his fallen career in Chicago.

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The Steelers have had a number of losses this offseason, but they should be able to weather the storm after losing backups Nick Vannett and Artie Burns. They are hoping to improve both the tight end and cornerback positions in 2020.