On National Superhero Day, Steeler Nation got the player it deserved but maybe not the one that it needs.
Last night, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Miami cornerback Artie Burns in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. To call this pick polarizing would be an understatement. Burns is the Donald Trump of draft picks. I’ve seen people applaud the Steelers by touting Burns as potentially the best corner in the entire class and I’ve seen people call this choice a disastrous overreach of a guy with 3rd round talent.
I’m no draftnik but I did mention Burns was a name to watch out for in my draft preview. There was a lot of late buzz around him in the days before the draft. Plus there’s always a position where there’s a run on talent and teams are left to overdraft guys a round or so early or risk being shut out. Two corners went off the board earlier than expected at #10 and #11 then the Bengals threw everybody a curve by taking their third CB in four years one spot before the Steelers.
Which isn’t to say they stole the guy we wanted, as I’ve seen fans saying online. Burns was one of the players Mike Tomlin and company invited in for a pre-draft meeting. Kevin Colbert wasted almost no time putting Burns name on the team’s draft card. It seems pretty clear he was someone they targeted all along.
Why they wanted him is a separate issue. “Raw” is the word most often associated with Burns. Even Tomlin likened him to “moldable clay” in his post-draft presser. Looking at his game tapes, he definitely appears to be a work in progress. Which would be fine if we had a secondary but right now we have William Gay, Ross Cockrell and a whole bunch of nothin’.
I don’t wanna come across too negatively because there are certainly positives here. Burns is a good sized corner at 6’0 190 pounds with insanely long arms that allow him to play even bigger. A former track star, he’s got top flight speed and elite athleticism. Burns also fills Keith Butler’s preference for corners with excellent ball skills, having picked off 6 passes last season.
On potential, I can see why he was a first rounder. Unfortunately, potential can take awhile to fulfill, if it’s ever fully realized at all. The Steelers need secondary help now. Their team is ready to compete for championships now. It’ll be great if he blossoms into the second coming of Neon Deon three years from now but that might be three years too late. And then there’s the risk of him never developing at all as the NFL Draft is littered with these “workout warriors” who have all the numbers on paper but never actually do anything on the field.
I’ll definitely be rooting for him. Not only because Burns is wearing the Black and Gold but because he seems like the kind of kid you want to root for. His backstory is a study in perseverance. With his father in jail for cocaine trafficking, he was raised by a mother who recently passed away at a fairly young age leaving him to raise two younger brothers in addition to a son of his own.
The Steelers clearly put a lot of faith in him, taking him in the first round. Let’s hope he justifies that faith in the years to come.