The Pittsburgh Steelers hadn't drafted a cornerback in the first round of the NFL Draft since 1997. That's a fact that's making the rounds at the moment. Pittsburgh rectified this by taking Artie Burns from Miami with the 25th overall pick. Many fans do not seem to like this pick; however, here on Behind the Steel Curtain, there has been a surprising amount of praise for this pick.
Now don't get me wrong, I like Burns. The guy's physicality is great to watch. As many have said, Burns has a little bit of a sad story attached to him too - I won't go into that here, but look it up. This means he has a real drive to succeed, and I genuinely hope he proves how good he really is. The problem for me is that I just don't think he was the right pick for Pittsburgh.
Burns has some attributes which mean he will not fit in the Steelers' current scheme. First, his ability to backpedal in off-man coverage is questionable. He doesn't move his hips to turn, which means NFL level receivers are not going to find it hard to get past him. In college, he used his size to grab receivers back which could lead to penalties in the pros.
His reactions and footwork are also issues when you watch closely. He's fast, he can get at to the right place at the right time, but he does't seem to always be mentally focused enough to get to the spot when he should. He's going to need a lot more focus and attention to detail if he's going to catch the likes of AJ Green.
Further to that, if he does get beat, he also has the awful habit of not recovering well. He doesn't get back on his feet or drop his shoulder for tackles, all while grabbing the receiver's jersey, which again is not going to cut it now that he's playing in the AFC North.
Finally, I don't think he is a good schematic fit for Pittsburgh at all. Pittsburgh plays A LOT of zone coverage. In college, Burns barely played zone coverage, Miami is all about man coverage - will he make the transition if he barely played zone at college? Time will tell, but if he's going to play from day one, time is not something Burns and the Steelers have.
Altogether, I'm still a little unclear as to why Burns went so high in the draft - most teams had him somewhere in the 3rd round. Now, again, don't get me wrong, I like Burns, I want him to do well. He just doesn't seem like the player Pittsburgh should have went for with the No. 25 pick. Yes, he is a player at a position of need, but if he was thought of to go in a later round, why use a first round pick? I would have preferred to get someone like Vernon Butler, and pick up a cornerback later. Not because defensive tackle is needed more than cornerback, but because the talent was there, and cornerbacks of Burns' caliber would still be available later on. Either way,I know one thing - I hope Artie Burns proves me wrong.