When the Pittsburgh Steelers selected CB Artie Burns with their first round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the experts and pundits immediately started giving their opinion on the selection. Some criticized the pick and claimed Burns wasn't a good fit for the scheme the Steelers deploy.
When I grew tired of these opinions, I took to SB Nation's University of Miami website, State of the U, to talk to their writers about Burns. After all, who better to give you the low down on a player than those who covered him the past three years?
Check out the interview below:
Most Steelers fans didn't know much about Artie Burns leading up to the draft, what are some of the assets he brings to the team?
SOTU: Well first of all, Burns is a long, speedy, and accomplished athlete. In addition to his prowess on the gridiron, he was an All-American hurdler at UM. But Burns is not a track athlete playing football. He is a football player through and through. He uses his speed and frame to play physical man to man. At Miami he also played quite a bit of zone, and even some safety. So he is also very versatile. His balls skills are also well above average, and he plays the game with a lot of swagger and competitive spirit. Burns had an emotional junior season in Coral Gables, with his mother Dana Smith passing away midseason. Yet he was still able to perform at a high level. This is a high character kid, who will not fail because of lack of mental toughness. He needs some improvements in the subtleties of playing his position, but with good coaching, the sky is the limit. Last but not least, he can definitely play Special Teams, and was fantastic doing so for the 'Canes.
Despite being a 1st round pick, many are skeptical of his play at the NFL level. What were his biggest weaknesses while at Miami?
SOTU: Artie Burns loves to use his hands on receivers. In the NFL he will probably get flagged a lot more than in college, if he continues to do so with out first earning a reputation and/or doing it a little less obviously. Burns also sometimes allowed his man to get inside of him, relying on speed and athleticism more than sound technique to cover his man. He'll need to tighten up those aspects of his game. But for the most part he has no obvious overwhelming flaws.
Burns seems to be a player who isn't scared of contact, but also has the speed and athleticism to play the cornerback position well. What would you say is the most overlooked aspect of his game?
SOTU: I would just say his demeanor. Burns plays the game with a lot of passion, and his confidence/swag is ideally suited to what you want in a cover corner.
What were your thoughts on the Steelers taking Burns in the first round with the 25th overall draft pick? Shocked? Or did you believe he was a first round talent?
SOTU: Frankly I was a bit surprised. I projected him as a 2nd round pick. He has first round talent, no doubt, but he clearly also has room for improvement and development. I assume the Steelers watched his film closely and see a player on the cusp of being special. He's not a finished product, but his upside is undoubtedly high. If Pittsburgh can afford to be patient with him for the early stages of his career, I think the gamble pays off big time.
In your opinion, what is Burns' ceiling at the NFL level? Does he have what it takes to be an every down player, or is he too raw to ever be considered a shut down cornerback?
SOTU: Burns ceiling, is that of a pro bowl player. He compares favorably at this stage of his development to former Miami and current Packers corner Sam Shields (who came into the league as a UFA). Shields was as raw as they come, having spent most of his college days at WR. But Green Bay coached him up, and he is now their #1 corner, and one of the better at his position in the league. Burns is just as fast, athletic, and tough as Sheilds, but he is longer and more natural for the position. He also has three years experience in a major D1 program as a corner. The similarities in raw ability should have Pitt fans excited though.