You can say what you want about the Steelers selection of Artie Burns in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft on Thursday, but that won’t change the fact that he officially ended the organization’s nearly two-decade run of not drafting a cornerback in the first round.
While the Steelers decision to draft Artie Burns appeared to be out of left field, you can’t argue with his resume that includes big-time production for a big-time program in Miami. Burns’ resume also lists several other impressive skill-sets, such as a 4.46 40 time at the Combine in February, as well as a frame–6’0 and 193 pounds–to not only stay with NFL receivers, but beat them up, as well.
- Oh, and did I mention this kid knows how to take the ball away?
See for yourself:
Yes, in 2015 Keith Butler‘s defense began to turn around the Steelers chronic turnover drought, but Pittsburgh needs defensive backs who can take the ball away.
- Artie Burns had 5 interceptions in 2015, the third most in the NCAA.
Two years ago, Ryan Shazier, an inside linebacker out of Ohio State, was a bit of a surprise as Pittsburgh’s first round pick (15th, overall) in the 2014 NFL Draft, considering he wasn’t a cornerback the Steelers appeared to need (and the fan base rightfully coveted). But after examining Shazier’s college production as well as his explosiveness and athleticism, there was way more to like about him than not.
- Sitting here today, is there any doubt head coach Mike Tomlin and Co. made the right decision on Ryan Shazier?
Sure, he’s had his injury problems during the first two years of his career, but he was clearly the best defensive player on the field during Pittsburgh’s dramatic victory over the Bengals in the wild card playoff game on January 9.
And in the final moments, with the Steelers’ season seemingly over after Vontaze Burfict intercepted backup quarterback Landry Jones with Cincinnati ahead, 16-15, Shazier saved the season by stripping Bengals running back Jeremy Hill of the football one play later and paved the way for Ben Roethlisberger‘s heroic final drive, the illegal hit on Antonio Brown, Joey Porter‘s non-instigations, and of course Chris Boswell‘s game-winning field goal.
Back to Burns. He clearly needs some work, but let’s not kid ourselves, every player drafted in the first round on Thursday will need to be coached up in-order to become great pro players.
- Burns might be raw and a bit unrefined, but like Tomlin was quoted as saying, “He’s a nice piece of clay to work with.”
Colbert: Corners Are a Premium in Today’s NFL
Artie Burns was the fifth and final corner taken in the first round on Thursday, and one might wonder why the Steelers didn’t try to address another position of need by taking a defensive lineman with perhaps a higher grade than Burns.
But as Steelers gm Kevin Colbert mentioned in a quote courtesy of The Washington Post, top corners are at a premium in today’s NFL:
There’s a premium in the NFL right now. There’s big receivers, and when you look for corners and find somebody with that kind of length, that kind of speed, that kind of athleticism (you take him).
Speaking of pieces of clay, Senquez Golson, Pittsburgh’s second round pick out of Ole Miss a year ago who sat out his entire rookie season due to a shoulder injury, certainly has the kind of resume–including a very productive college career that saw him intercept 10 passes in his senior season of 2014–to be molded into a very good NFL cornerback.
- For years, the Steelers ignored the cornerback position early in the draft, as they built up other areas of the team.
Now by using a first round pick on a corner one season after using a second round pick, it’s clear where the Steelers are focusing their attention.
Again, you can say what you want about Artie Burns, but you can’t say he doesn’t add talent to a position where the Steelers sorely needs it.