Pittsburgh’s second-year cornerback Artie Burns has the potential to become a star. Luckily for him, he knows a guy who might be able to help him unlock it.
When Artie Burns’ name was called with the No. 25 pick in last year’s draft, many Steelers fans said “who?” There was little doubt that team would use the pick on a cornerback, but most mock drafts had them taking Ohio State’s Eli Apple, or Houston’s William Jackson III. However, both players were already off the board when Pittsburgh was on the clock — the Bengals snatched Jackson III just one pick prior — leaving Burns as the best cornerback available.
The early selection of the former Miami Hurricanes cornerback came as a bit of a surprise. Sure, the team badly needed secondary help, but Burns was considered to be a second-round player by many experts. Although he had perhaps the most raw talent of any corner in the draft, he was very unpolished and wasn’t believed to be quite ready for the NFL.
By using a first-round pick on Burns, Pittsburgh displayed confidence that he would develop into a number one corner. Having one of the worst passing defenses in the league meant they couldn’t afford to be wrong.
As is often the case, the Steelers knew what they were doing when they selected Burns.
After a solid rookie year in which he had 3 interceptions, the second-year corner appears to be taking another step forward. He has been primarily matched up with Antonio Brown since the start of training camp, and has actually been able to hold his own. Brown still gets his occasionally, but it hasn’t been nearly as one-sided as it was during last year’s camp.
Having the opportunity to cover the league’s best receiver every day will only make Burns better. The young corner has embraced the competition, saying “I just like to compete, and AB likes to compete, too. Us going against each other is gonna bring out the best in me and him.”
Burns will be Pittsburgh’s number one corner this season. He is also likely to follow every opponent’s best receiver around the field like Ike Taylor used to do. This says a lot about the faith that the coaching staff has in this kid.
The term “shut-down corner” shouldn’t be thrown around just yet, but the potential is certainly there.