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Steelers Film Room: Artie Burns makes plays and mistakes

The Steelers prized rookie is playing better, but still making some key mistakes. We break down the film.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t think I need to discuss my viewing on Artie Burns. I will admit, I was not the biggest fan of the pick and I am not a fan of him being on the field. That said, against the Browns, Burns started to show me more good than he did bad, which I had not seen up until this point.

What do I mean when I say that, well, stick around to find out.

Press coverage

I won’t lie, reviewing the film and having not watched the game live, I was extremely surprised to be seeing Artie Burns playing by himself on an island in press man to man coverage. A lot of that no doubt had to do with what the Steelers did blitzing and for a change they did less zone blitzing and more straight up man coverage blitzing.

A lot that no doubt had to do with who they were playing.

Nonetheless, Burns really showed me a lot when he was matched up one on one against Corey Coleman. Coleman is the kind of wide receiver who can really challenge you in space and Burns showed great ability to stick with him.

When matched up one on one I am glad that the Steelers did not play him 5-10 yards off the WR, as he would no doubt get eaten alive in space. Seeing them play Burns in press reinforced my thoughts on Burns that the best chance he had of playing man coverage would be on the line in press technique, as he can slow down receivers with his long arms.

Where I believe he thrives is when his eyes are on the QB in zone coverage with minimal responsibility, but perhaps he has a great chance to be better in man coverage and still make plays on the ball better than I thought.

First, Burns leaves himself vulnerable inside and Coleman makes an excellent move avoiding Burns’ jam off the line, but what is impressive about Burns on this play is that he has the speed to recover after getting beat off the line.

If Coleman was running an inside route, Burns would’ve had troubled, but since it was a streak, Burns is able to stay with him and read his eyes, along with having the awareness to look back for the football and intercept the pass.

Artie Burns had great ball skills coming out of college, but they’re even better than I anticipated. I’m very impressed with his awareness and instincts to the point it’s something that reminded me a bit of Marcus Peters or even Josh Norman. It is also why I can’t wait for him to develop and no longer be a rookie because his mistakes are still a huge problem teams are exploiting.

Continuing growing pains

As a rookie, you’re going to struggle and you’re going to flash, Burns has definitely flashed but he’s also made me want to rip my hair out.

Plays like this are just infuriating to me. My biggest problem with this play is him trying to lead with his back trying to tackle Gary Barnidge. Why? Why wouldn’t you try to get your hands on him and punch the ball out. That is terrible fundamentals and makes no sense to me.

I’ve seen plenty of other Steelers writers call out Burns on this play, but I’m not nearly as critical as them. While many have undoubtedly seen Alex Kozora’s opinion on this play (FYI, I’m not calling him out, I’m just giving my perspective on the play), I’m not going to say that it is clear cut that Burns should have jumped the in breaking route because there is always the chance Barnidge could have faked going inside and gone outside where Burns’ zone was. I’d rather him stay in his zone than jump the route.

Overall I was mad with the play, but mostly because of the way he finished it. I’ve seen much worse from Burns, assignment wise, which is why I say this game was no doubt the best he’s played because his flashes were more noticeable than his mistakes, something I hadn’t said about him coming into this game.

This game was a step in the right direction for Artie Burns and his arrow is definitely pointing up after this game.

He hasn’t hit the rookie wall just yet and if he can continue to make more plays than mistakes, this could be big for the Steelers going forward.