With one season under his belt, cornerback Artie Burns, from the University of Miami, was once considered a reach in the first-round of the 2016 NFL Draft. While general manager Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin like to ignore the “elevator music” in the background, they selected Burns with the 25th overall pick in the Draft.
Fans were extremely disappointed when the team drafted Burns, rather than going after the best player available like they normally do each year. This selection proved to be a solid one for the Steelers as the rookie registered 65 total tackles, three interceptions and 13 pass deflections.
Let’s take a moment to look at his top five plays. Hopefully this gets everyone excited for the future of the defense, because Artie Burns is the real deal.
5. First Career INT on Ravens QB Joe Flacco
The play that started it all. Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw an interception to rookie Artie Burns in Week 9. This play sparked the coming out party for a defensive rookie that just needed to gain a little confidence to show the world what he is capable of.
Burns needs to thank safety Mike Mitchell for bringing the pressure which forced Flacco to make a terrible play. This play could be looked back upon in several years if Burns does indeed carry the Steelers to a Super Bowl with his outstanding abilities.
A red-zone interception with the score 0-0 in the late first-quarter? Thanks Burns!
4. Interception vs. Bills (Week 14)
While the score was 21-7 at the time in the fourth-quarter, Burns still wanted to notch what would be his final interception of his rookie season. Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor made a terrible throw as the Steelers defense was in a cover-2 zone defense.
Fellow rookie second-round draft pick Sean Davis would have had an opportunity to intercept the football had Burns miss timed his jump or if it went threw his hands.
Great play by Burns but it was truly a gift from Taylor.
3. Interception vs. Browns (Week 11)
The number three play for the rookie is against the Cleveland Browns, who were winless at the time. This was the game that truly sparked a nine-game winning streak in the regular season and gave Pittsburgh a chance to play in the AFC Championship game.
So many great plays occurred in this week 11 showdown against the Browns. Eight sacks, an interception and a force fumble touchdown were plays that happened in this matchup.
Rookie Burns notched his second interception of his career against quarterback Cody Kessler, who has struggled when throwing the deep ball. Burns took advantage of Kessler’s inability to throw deep and registered a beautiful leaping interception versus fellow rookie receiver Corey Coleman.
Great execution from the rook!
2. Pass Deflection vs. Bengals; Eventually Seals Game
In week 15 against the Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh’s offense decided not to show up until the fourth-quarter. It was kicker Chris Boswell who nailed six field goals for 18 total points until quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw a late touchdown to take the lead 24-20.
The Steelers were down 20-9 going into half-time. An epic comeback was potentially sealed when first-round rookie corner Artie Burns deflected a pass on third and 14 to give his offense the football back. The rest was history as the Bengals didn’t see the football again.
This play in my opinion is number two on Burns’ top 5 plays of 2016. If he didn’t just get a finger tip on the football, the Bengals could have came back and won the game. Who knows, all that matters is Burns made a big time play when it mattered most and that is what makes his future so bright.
1. Pass Deflection vs. Chiefs’ explosive Tyreek Hill
This play occurred in week 4 against the Kansas City Chiefs at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. In week 4, Artie Burns was not even a true starting cornerback but rather used in different packages. This play above is the number one play from his rookie year.
Why? You may ask?
It’s quite simple. Coming out of college Burns was considered the most raw cornerback in his entire draft class. To be placed in a situation where he is going up against one of the fastest, if not the fastest athletes currently in football, and to get slightly beat and to come back and deflect the pass, it’s just incredible.
Chiefs return specialist and wide receiver Tyreek Hill had an exceptional rookie year. He finished with 61 receptions for 593 yards and six touchdowns. Earned 592 total yards and two touchdowns on punt returns and 384 yards and one touchdown on kickoff returns. Lastly, he rushed 24 times for 267 yards and three touchdowns, bringing his total 2016 yardage to 1,836 yards and 12 touchdowns.
As you can see, Burns tried his hardest to not let the insanely fast Hill ruin his spotlight in front of all the fans at Heinz Field. Mission accomplished rook!
Feel free to tell me your top five plays for rookie corner Artie Burns. If the plays are solid and you think they should be in a different order, let me know in the comments below. He is truly going to be a star in the Steel City!