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The roller coaster ride that is the play of Artie Burns

Artie Burns’ entire career has been highlighted by up-and-down play

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

The CB2 spot is now a mess because of the struggles of one — that would be the notorious Artie Burns. I get the hate. Burns has been absolutely terrible since Pittsburgh met the Chiefs in Week 2. He had a decent game against Atlanta, but reverted back to the no confidence form of himself against the Bengals. And that is what his main issue is —Confidence.

That one word is everything to a Cornerback like Burns. He is one of those CBs that thrives off of playing with some swagger and aggressiveness. He likes to get his hands on the receiver and get in their heads. I like that a lot. The issue is Burns has literally lost all that edge which made him competent in the first place.

That’s right, before this year Burns was not nearly as bad as many made him out to be. But this year he has just been abysmal. He is not putting his hands on receivers and is not processing anything correctly. He is seemingly out there and lost. Everything a Cornerback should know how to do, Burns has lost it. That is why that one word, confidence is so key for Artie Burns.

It is hard for a Cornerback to get that back, but to show you that he was indeed aggressive and a guy who could at least do a competent job before this season, I do have some clips to show you.

Burns was always a turbulent player, but now he is just very, very bad. Here, even though he is playing off coverage and the ball is thrown behind Tyreek Hill by Alex Smith, Burns has that great change of direction to get his hand in there and knock it away. If the ball is more towards the sideline, this play is a 50-50 all because Burns has the aggressiveness and fluidity to turn back on the out. Artie Burns does not make that play, and he also does not make this one.

I mean where is this Artie Burns this year? This is the same Artie Burns that plays with clear confidence. He gets right up there with Hill and mirrors that streak just about as well as you could. Then he uses trail technique just about as perfect as you could to knock that ball out. A confident and competent CB2 makes that play all day. Burns was that last year, but he is not this year.

Again, Burns knows what is coming straight from the snap. He processes this wheel about as well as you can. His mirroring on off-man is great here, and then when it is thrown for a jump-ball, he tracks the ball beautifully. Straight to the catch point and his hips are always square just in case Lafell makes any inside cut. That is something a confident corner does, but instead, a lost one does things like this.

I genuinely wish Burns knew what he was doing in any capacity this year. He simply does not. What in the world is he even seeing through his eyes here? You are not getting beat on a seam right here, you should always play off-man and then come down hard onto Boyd, but leave your hips square so you’re ready for an inside or outside cutting route. Instead, he just keeps backpedaling and gives a free touchdown to Boyd. This is one of numerous examples this year, and you can find them scattered throughout every single game.

I find this even worse than Boyd touchdown. Because the old Artie Burns would have crashed right onto Evans here and not have even given him the opportunity to get outside. This is just a timid corner who is hoping he can, by some miracle, mirror one of the leagues best receivers and not be caught napping. Instead, he turns his hips completely inside, which gives up outside leverage, and Evans takes full advantage of that, with Burns’ back turned and all. It is a nicely ran route, but Burns shows technical deficiencies across the board.

However, if you want to see the biggest proof how Burns has lost his confidence, it is this right here.

Burns barely even tries to press Tyreek Hill here. He gets his shoulder turned uphill right as he gives up outside leverage with his hips facing at an inward angle for what reason. His shoulder is not even straight over Hill’s. These are technical problems Burns would have never had last year. He does not even try to jam here. His hands are a virtual non-factor. That is the signs of a CB who has no confidence.

Listen, Burns was not given a great hand to become the great CB we all wanted him to be. For a CB to become elite they need a few things:

  1. Capable coaching
  2. Schematic competence
  3. Talent surrounding them

I question if Burns ever had any of those three. Keith Butler has never been a good defensive coordinator, and Burns has been thrust into zone and off-man coverage situations more than he should be. The schematic understanding of Burns’ capabilities has caused him to really falter in that regard. He has lost his confidence from non-press areas. He is a press corner who should never been drafted in the 1st round. The expectations have fallen onto his shoulders when I doubt he ever thought he would hear his name called on Day 1 of the draft. When Carnell Lake is your DB coach, Keith Butler your DC, and the best member of your secondary is Mike Mitchell (he is not bad, but man that is not good), this is not the situation where a raw CB with all the physical tools, but limited attributes at CB will excel in.

Burns was dealt a bad hand from the jump. He did his best with it to overcome the deficiencies by being aggressive and using his confidence to back himself up. That is why he was always the up-and-down player you know. However, now he has lost that confidence.

Artie Burns is a shell of his former-self.