By: Zach Metkler, The Burgh Blog
Last night, the Steelers stuck to their guns and selected a cornerback they feel can be their #1 for the foreseeable future: Miami’s Artie Burns.
Leading up to the #25 pick, it appeared likely that the Steelers were going to be able to select their pre-draft darling William Jackson III (my projected 1st round selection for the Steelers). After a cascade occurred when the Washington Redskins unexpectedly chose to take receiver Josh Doctson instead of addressing their defensive line as expected, the Bengals were left with no 1st round receivers left to select, causing them to do the unexpected: select a cornerback who just happened to be the Steelers guy.
A sweet victory for the Bengals organization and a painful slap in the face for the Steelers.
All whining aside, there is much to be excited about with the Artie Burns selection. He is a long, fast, athletic, physical corner with tremendous ball skills. Head coach Mike Tomlin referred to him last night as a “piece of clay to mold”, due to his raw potential. In my 3rd mock draft, I mentioned that Burns has a ceiling a mile high and once he begins to tap into his potential, he could develop into one of the best cornerbacks in this draft class, if not the very best. With the current state of the Steelers secondary, it is likely that Burns will be able to find his way onto the field very early, potentially as a #2 starting out. With his upside and last years 2nd round selection Senquez Golson coming back from a season long injury, there is much to be excited about with the Steelers cornerback situation, especially with William Gay and Ross Cockrell being in the mix and probably another draft selection later on. If everything goes according to the Steelers plan, Burns will develop into their #1 corner with some variation of Golson, Gay, and Cockrell filling out the rest of the depth chart. When that will happen will largely depend on the development of the former Miami track star.
(Photo from Hogs Haven)
Off the football field, Burns is one of the players that everyone wants to cheer for. His mother past away after suffering a heart attack last year, leaving Burns to be the primary caretaker of his two younger brothers. His father is also currently serving the 10th year of a 25 year prison sentence on charges of cocaine trafficking. Add in the fact that Burns is the father of a 19-month old son, and Burns has every reason to not be where he currently is today.
Even though the Steelers likely would have selected Jackson III with their first pick, it is equally as likely that the Steelers were just as high on Burns as they were Jackson. Although Jackson is the more NFL ready cornerback right now, Burns has twice as much potential as his counterpart.
Although Burns comes with a bunch of upside and positives, he does have some things he needs to work on to improve. As I and many others have mentioned during the pre-draft process, Burns is not yet the sum of his parts. He still has some technique issues he needs to work on, such as his height in his backpedal, his overusing of hand contact on receivers, and being able to attack blockers on run plays rather than being attacked.
Many people feel that Burns was a huge reach in the 1st round. With players like NT Andrew Billings, CB Mackensie Alexander, DT’s A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed, and even ILB Myles Jack still on the board, many fans felt that Steelers wasted their pick on a “surefire bust”. While that concern might be warranted, Burns was one of the most underrated corners in this draft class. According to Mike Mayock, he “[knew] teams with a third-round grade on Burns and others that believe[d] he could end up the best corner in this draft.”
With Jalen Ramsey, Eli Apple, Vernon Hargreaves, and William Jackson III all of the board at pick #25, the Steelers had to make a move on a guy that they were high on. As it stands right now, there will likely be a run on the remaining top cornerbacks left on the board before the Steelers make their selection at the end of the 2nd round.
After these players, there are no cornerbacks left that scream “future #1 cornerback”.
The Steelers needed to make a move on a player that they were confident would be their cornerback of the future, even if it meant barely “reaching” for a player that would have likely been selected at the top of the 2nd round.
Artie Burns is the type of player that you want to succeed, regardless of what team you support.
Hopefully, the Steelers have found their #1 cornerback for the next decade. I honestly feel that they have.