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Competition's coming

Players who were counted upon previously that struggled in 2018 may yet be players the Steelers turn to again.

But for kicker Chris Boswell and cornerback Artie Burns, there are no guarantees.

General Manager Kevin Colbert expressed belief in the potential of both this week, but also made it clear the Steelers will be exploring other options.

Boswell entered 2018 as a Pro Bowl kicker but ended his season on the reserve-injured list. In between, he converted just 13 of 20 field goal attempts (65 percent), including five of 10 from 40-49 yards. Boswell also missed five of 48 tries on extra points.

The inaccuracy was impactful.

Boswell missed a combined seven kicks in five games the Steelers didn't win _ a 42-yard field goal in a 21-21 tie on Sept. 9 at Cleveland, a 49-yard field goal and an extra point in a 42-37 loss on Sept. 16 to Kansas City, a blocked 48-yard field goal in a 24-17 loss on Nov. 25 at Denver, an extra point in a 33-30 loss on Dec. 2 to Los Angeles, and 39- and 40-yard field goals in a 24-21 loss on Dec. 9 at Oakland.

In 2017, Boswell had set Steelers records for field goals (35) and points (142) in a season. Among his field goals were four game-winning kicks (within one minute of regulation or in overtime) and three that split the uprights with 0:00 remaining on the clock.

"The drop-off with Chris Boswell was surprising, disappointing, and this is something that Chris shares with us like we share with him," Colbert said. "We believe that Chris Boswell has the ability to do better than he did, he has already proven that. He set a standard for himself in 2017 as a Pro Bowl player and last year, statistically, he was one of the worst kickers and that's a huge drop-off.

"As a young player, we also believe he can find his way out of that and we support him in that attempt. Does that mean that he won't have competition? Absolutely not."

Matt McCrane replaced Boswell (IR) for the regular-season finale against the Bengals and went 3-for-3 on field goals and made his only extra point attempt in a 16-13 victory.

"Matt did a nice job in that Cincinnati game," Colbert said. "Could we add another young player into that mix? Sure.

"There will be competition for 'Boz.'"

Burns, the Steelers' first-round pick in 2016 (25th overall), went from starter to spare part in his third NFL season.

"Unfortunately, Artie took a step backwards last year," Colbert said. "It's not something we haven't talked about with him. It was pretty much like 'Boz,' did, not as drastic because Artie technically wasn't a starter from a certain point in the season."

Burns started six of the first seven games, but began rotating with Coty Sensabaugh at cornerback opposite Joe Haden on Sept. 24 at Tampa. Sensabaugh started against the Buccaneers and eventually took over at the position. Burns played just 13 snaps, all on special teams, in the regular-season finale against Cincinnati.

"Artie has got to find his confidence, he really does," Colbert said. "That's something that we talk to him about, he's got to re-find it. Does he have the talent? Have we seen it? Have we seen him be productive? We have, but unfortunately last year he took a step back.

"We'll find out if he can find it. Is that going to stop us from challenging his position with other players? Absolutely not, because he has to prove he can do it."