In what turned out to be an insanely strange evening which involved a gas mask bong hit on a Twitter feed (since deleted but this is the Internet. Nothing is ever truly deleted) to a cut-off shirt on the red carpet (Ezekiel Elliott), the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Miami cornerback Artie Burns with the 25th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Many in the Steeler Nation were not pleased with this selection at all. Some believed that the Steelers’ front office panicked after the Cincinnati Bengals selected William Jackson III with the prior selection (much like how in 2014, the Steelers’ front office panicked into taking Ryan Shazier when Kyle Fuller was taken by the Chicago Bears with the prior pick).
Who really knows? No one can know for certain if Burns would have been available in the 2nd round like many believe he would have been. If anything, the first round of the draft this evening should prove one thing that all of us should know by now: the draft is unpredictable.
One player who was deemed the top overall pick a month ago dropped to 13th (Laremy Tunsil and his gas mask thanks you, Miami). Another player who was picked as the best player in the draft if healthy was well, not healthy enough to be selected in the first round (Myles Jack and his poor knee). The draft is unpredictable, but one thing is certain: the Steelers needed secondary help and they got it in Artie Burns.
Burns is a long, tall cornerback with great athletic ability and speed, having been a member of the Miami track and field team. He is also a ball hawk who led the ACC in interceptions last season. Burns is also extremely young, as he is going to be only 21 years old before the Week 1 game in Washington (which he will be next week). While all of us can guess how Burns will pan out, this selection should placate the fans who desperately wanted a cornerback taken in the first round. It should also calm the fans who wanted to see cornerbacks over 6-feet and taller.
This pick even bleeds into the team's scheme as well. For those fans who are tired of watching the Steelers’ cornerbacks playing so much off-coverage, well, Burns is a very strong bump-and-run cornerback, a "natural" bump-and-run cornerback as GM Kevin Colbert described him during his last news conference. It should also give the embattled secondary coach Carnell Lake some prime talent work with now that Burns is a Steeler and last year’s second round selection Senquez Golson is expected to be ready for all offseason workouts. Burns might be raw now but it will be up to the coaching staff to help him turn into a reliable cornerback who likely will be asked to cover A.J. Green, Breshaud Perriman, and whoever the Browns have as their top receiver twice a season in the next few years.
General Manager Kevin Colbert has said before he asks every defensive back prospect if he can guard Antonio Brown. Who knows what answer Burns gave the GM, but I for one can’t wait to see Burns lined up against the perennial All-Pro in Latrobe during training camp. Nothing will develop Burns faster than playing against AB on a day-to-day basis. So give Burns a chance before burying him as a wasted pick.