The Pittsburgh Steelers are said to have had their sights set on cornerback William Jackson III with the 25th pick last night, in the opening round of the 2016 NFL Draft, held at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago. Instead, the Cincinnati Bengals took Jackson one slot ahead of the Steelers, with the 24th pick overall. Whether or not the Bengals took WJIII just to spite their AFC North rivals, the Steelers ended up with a “raw”, but equally talented cornerback in Artie Burns. The good news is that the University of Miami cornerback has the height, speed, and ball skills that the Steelers need on the outside. The “bad” news is that Carnell Lake is going to have to mold Burns into what the Steelers need him to be, just like any other cornerback they would have drafted. Despite all the criticism the selection of Artie Burns is receiving, he possesses all the athletic ability that that William Jackson III is praised for. While I was hoping that WJIII would be there for the Steelers, not much separates him from Artie Burns.
Mike Mayock believes that the Steelers first pick has the potential to be the best cornerback in this draft, or that he could end up being a bust, like a lot of previous talented athletes have ended up being.
Artie Burns started 23 of 36 career games at the University of Miami, and finished with 7 interceptions (including 6 in his junior season), 2 sacks, a forced fumble, and one fumble recovery. He was also a track star at Miami, displaying world class speed, which took time away from his development as a cornerback. Burns could have used his senior season to further develop his cover technique, instead, for family reasons, he chose to declare early for the NFL Draft. Almost halfway through this past season, Artie Burns’s mother passed away from a heart attack, leaving him solely responsible for the care of his younger brothers, in addition to that of his young son AJ. The focus he should have been putting into the growth of his game was instead, out of necessity, put towards mourning the loss of his mother, and supporting his two younger brothers. Burns had to grow up overnight, but what he has overcome in such a short time, has shown the kind of character he has, the kind that the Steelers look for in a player.
Here is the draft analysis for Artie according to http://www.nfl.com.
Premium athlete with long, angular build and preferred blend of size and speed. One of the top 60-meter hurdlers in college track and field. Wakes up every morning with natural ball skills to flip the field. Got hands on high number of targeted throws, including six interceptions this season despite playing in a cornerback rotation. Will bait quarterbacks into trap throws. Has soft hands and catch radius of a receiver when it is time to take the ball away. Possesses brash, cocky demeanor. Length and physicality from press can be extremely disruptive. Burst on the throw is NFL-worthy. When hes dialed in, has talent to be impactful. Usually finishes when he makes contact as tackler.
Tape isn’t his best friend. Extremely raw and undisciplined. Leggy and grabby in routes. Flagged for four pass interference and two unsportsmanlike penalties. Upright in backpedal and plays with very little bend. High center of gravity prevents fluid change of direction. Coasts on athleticism and talent over proper technique. Turns motor off and on from game to game, and play can be lackadaisical. Would like to see him attack blockers rather than waiting for running back before disengaging.
Rounds 1 or 2
Sources Tell Us
“Tape is just average. Betting on the combine with him and he’ll test off the charts. He’s got the traits, but he’s not ready yet. He’s a good kid who has so much to deal with now that his mom has passed.” — NFL personnel executive.
With the concern of being able to provide for his family behind him, along with his days of running track, Artie Burns can now focus solely on his football career. As good as he performed with all that was happening around him, it stands to reason, that with the coaching that Carnell Lake and the staff can provide him, Artie Burns will only progress towards his potential. If the Steelers thought differently, they would have selected another cornerback. Maybe it was Burns all along, not William Jackson III, that the Steelers were targeting. If so, then maybe they got one over on the Bengals. Either way, the Steelers got themselves a cornerback who is an immediate improvement over Antwon Blake and Brandon Boykin, with the potential to be a shutdown type of cornerback with solid ball skills. With the track record that the Steelers have with their draft process over the years, especially in the first round, it is reasonable to believe that Artie Burns will end up a lot closer to being the best cornerback in this draft than he is to being a bust.