Meet Artie Burns, 2016 Round 1 Steelers Draft Pick

Artie Burns was the first cornerback selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in Round 1 of the NFL Draft since 1997, when the team chose Chad Scott. While notable, that isn’t the only thing that stands out about about Burns, who played his college ball at the University of Miami. The native of Miami was also a one of the world’s top junior track stars in high school, being twice named a track and field All-American by USA Today. He’s broken numerous 110-meter hurdling records and, in 2012, he was ranked fifth in the world and was the top World Junior hurdler in the United States.

He continued his record-breaking ways on the track in college, shattering a 38-year old American record in the indoor 60-meter hurdles in 2014 with a time of 7.68 seconds, all the while also playing football. Burns was also a defensive back for Miami Northwestern High School, given a four-star rating by Rivals.com who ranked him the 15th-best defensive back in the nation. In high school, he was initially a safety, with 80 tackles (10 for a loss) and 12 pass breakups, 4 forced fumbles and 1 interception as a junior. He converted to cornerback, and he became a starter in his second season at Miami. Through three years, the cornerback had 93 combined tackles (65 solo), 14 pass breakups and seven interceptions (six in 2015). Now, Burns is a Steeler, selected 25th-overall on Day 1 and has the chance to be a starter in his rookie season.

But Burns’ athletic pedigree only tells part of the story. There’s always much talk about the players who have overcome significant adversity on their path to the NFL and Burns is certainly among them. His father, Artie Burns Sr., is 10 years into a 25-year prison sentence for cocaine trafficking. His mother, Dana Smith, passed away from a heart attack in October 2015. Though Burns just turned 21 years old over the weekend, he’s responsible for his two younger brothers, whom Burns took custody of when his mother died, as well as a 19-month old son named A.J.

Success in the NFL is not just something Burns needs or wants for himself—the responsibility of taking care of his family will also be a major motivator. He said so himself when he declared he was leaving college and skipping his senior season at Miami to enter the 2016 draft. Burns’ statement read, “Due to my mom’s sudden passing and my father being incarcerated, I now have custody of my two younger brothers and my son to raise. It is my responsibility to be the financial supporter my family needs to continue our day-to-day lives. Also, playing in the National Football League has always been a dream of mine and I believe the time to pursue this dream is now. I feel I am mentally and physically ready. Now that the time has come for me to take the next step in my journey, I will come back to complete my degree from this prestigious university.”

There are NFL players 10 years older than Burns who don’t have the same weight of responsibility hanging on their shoulders. This additional motivation should factor into the kind of effort and work ethic we see from Burns this summer in training camp, through the preseason and for the duration of his professional career. Though it may not be an indicator of the quality of a career Burns has with the Steelers or the NFL in general, that he has something tangible to fight for and people who rely on him to win to that fight means that he has a catalyst to make the most of his time in the league. With his proven athletic talent another bonus, the Steelers have found a player who not only meets their roster needs but also their standards, from a character perspective.

  • alevin16

    M. Bryant should hang out with this guy

  • Daniel

    Great story..maybe burns can intercept a ball and hurdle someone over for a TD

  • NW86

    So he just turned 21 and he has a 19 year old son?? Wow, that’s starting young. 😉

  • Daniel

    Brother

  • WreckIess

    You used to write for Bleacher Report right?

  • John Schneider

    21 years old with a 19 year old son eh?

  • greeny

    Do you know if he will reside in Pittsburgh all year and if his brothers and family will reside with him?

  • PaeperCup

    One thing seems for certain, The Steelers were looking for some good character guys. And they got a few in Burns, Davis, and Hargraves.

  • PaeperCup

    He can give AB some pointers how to finally make it over the punter.

  • Joeybaggadonuts

    Hopefully the Steelers and or the league have programs in place to establish support systems that will enable him to attain goals and maintain responsibilities.

  • Jones

    Lol – martavis takes karate, but AB actually kicks people in the face.

  • Sonny Saks

    Culliver anyone??

  • Big White

    Wow, that’s a tough situation. That definitely takes a lot of focus and discipline even more playing alongside a bunch of delinquents down in Miami. Love the track and field background too. Professional football players have been practicing hung over and on three hours of sleep forever, not many track guys walk that line. Cool, I already feel better.

  • Jones

    Watching their rivals give away their season right in front of them due to bad character guys reinforces how important it is.

  • SoCal Steeler

    The Steelers always seem to value character over talent to a degree but this time it appears we got a talented great character guy. Best of luck to him, his family and Steeler Nation.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    I wish this guy nothing but the best welcome to the steelers he had to grow up early and take responsibility of his family nothing but respect for him

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    Too bad he can’t have no.15 because A-R 15 would’ve been a cool nick name I also like arson

  • SteelersDepot

    failed physical because he still is rehabbing torn ACL & MCL

  • 19 MONTH old son.

  • vasteeler

    I would say I have more knowledge of track and field events than your average fan. I like watching during non Olympic years to predict who may make it kinda like a mock draft I guess, but my point is I just want to emphasize that 7.68 in the 60…. that is absolutely blistering, it would be somewhat respectable for a regular 60m event but for the hurdles at that pace is mind boggling, steelers haven’t had an athlete like this in their secondary since rod, and no I’m not saying he’s rod but artie has proven to be in a class of his own literally

  • PaeperCup

    I wonder if he can return kicks and punts like Rod. That would be huge! I know they talked about him being a gunner on punt coverage though

  • falconsaftey43

    80 tackles, 87 PBUs, 17 FF, 22 Ints as a juniour in high school can’t be right.

  • T3xassteelers

    Oh man that’s great to hear! But as Paeper said.. I wonder if he’ll return any kicks? Especially during his rookie year, seems like a good gig to start in!

  • T3xassteelers

    Oh my gosh yes! I remember seeing her on the Steelers BR side.

  • T3xassteelers

    I’m super excited to see what he can do!!!

  • T3xassteelers

    LOL send him to Canton right now!

  • WreckIess

    I thought so. The name looked familiar. The depot has an allstar lineup I see lol.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    Regardless of how I feel about trading back and what not I am 1000% rooting for this kid.

  • falconsaftey43

    You’d think they’d stop throwing at him if he was breaking up 7 passing and getting 2 picks every game hahah.

  • greeny

    EZ with the good character already Steelers Depot. Martavis Bryant may be suffering from bipolar disorder but we have him flagged as a bad character guy. We have know idea yet if Burns is a good character guy.. These stories are a dime a dozen in the NFL unfortunately. I feel for the young man but he is not the only player in the league to have gone through this. If his brothers, girlfriend (baby mama), and son all reside with him at 21 years old, then yes; it’s a good story. If he goes to work everyday for the steelers and comes home to his family in Pittsburgh or wherever he resides; then yes it’s a good story.

    From a football standpoint we reached. We could have easily traded down to get him.

  • vasteeler

    thats the 1 thing i’ve been waiting to hear about, seems like a natural kick returner prospect but not so much punt returner

  • vasteeler

    i definitely think they’re not doing their due diligence if they didnt at least allow him to compete at kick returner, i dont think his hands are anywhere as natural as rod’s were to be a punt returner but hey you never know

  • Billy Bob

    Not for nothing, but that is a great suit, tie and shirt combo! Classic blue suit, white oxford button down, with what I believe is called a “school tie.” Looks like he went to Brooks Brothers. Conservative. Means business. No nonsense. Looks like he is going to interview for a job on Wall Street. Well played, Mr. Burns. Rooting for you and your family.

  • vasteeler

    you think a 21 yr old doing what he’s doing is a dime a dozen?? are you serious??? i cant even remember half of my junior in college from the late night booze sessions, what were you doing at 21 sir???

  • DoctorNoah

    Andrea: welcome to Steelers Depot!

  • DoctorNoah

    In a league filled with Greg Hardy’s, Randy Gregory’s and guys smoking bong hits out of gas masks on instagram, I’ll take a guy with a sense of responsibility any day.

  • Some ppl are so ego driven and selfish they cant see the good in anything. I pray you eat your words while you are exiled to the land of cleveland browns fandom purgatory!

  • renoir

    agree, so tired of players who either have no clue how to dress well or are dressed badly by tv people who dont know how to dress someone…

  • SteelersDepot

    Might want to avoid the site for the next few days then. Would you like me to temporarily block your IP address so you won’t be tempted to visit?

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    I’ve done alot of research on him the last few days, and he has really good hands for a corner! Now I’m interested to see if he can put return! We may test it out!

  • DirtDawg1964

    We could have traded down but that doesn’t mean we would have been able to pick him. You have zero factual knowledge of what any other team would have done if we hadn’t picked him at that spot. Was it a reach? Possibly. But a it’s quite clear he was their guy and once you have a guy in your sights you want to be real careful about letting someone else take him.

    As for being a “dime a dozen” guy, well if he’s a dime a dozen than I’d say society is in really great shape, isn’t it? So I will still take him and his story because nothing positive comes about by not being a backer and believer in him.

  • T3xassteelers

    Hahah you would definitely think

  • T3xassteelers

    Yeah.. But we have Ayers for that.. Hopefully anyways haha

  • T3xassteelers

    Probably a good question for Alex on his mailbag days

  • vasteeler

    ^^^thank you!^^

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    Ppl don’t realize that NFL team staffs have insiders that have to be in the know when it comes to draft stuff and who wants who. Seahawks and Cardinals could have easily picked Burns and then what? That’s who you want then take him, especially if your number 1 goal in this draft was to FIX THE SECONDARY!

  • greeny

    Understood. Sorry! I appreciate all you do. The Steelers Depot comment wasn’t aimed at the author. It was more aimed at the comments of MB being a bad character guy when we don’t know what is going on there either.. I am pulling for Burns and believe me me his story is heartbreaking but not the first time such a story has hit the NFL. I was just providing another point of view. I will tone it down. And yes everyone, when I was 21, I was in college on my full academic scholarship doing silly college things with the benefit of not having that kind of responsibility. I am hopeful this will manifest a positive outcome for more reasons than football. Go Pens!

  • Yiz

    Last time i checked all the media reports about mostly are NFL players getting arrested & in trouble. Stories like these may be prevalent but they dont get told as often. ESPN/NFL network didnt mention this story on draft night, when he was picked but they talked about Tunsil and the gas mask. So, if you dont care to read about stories like these then don’t read them. Sounds like you have a problem with Marty B’s character being critized but he has nothing to do with this article and hasnt been mentioned. Besides his actions is what has brought this criticism on himself.

  • greeny

    You are right. It was someone’s post I should have responded to. Lesson learned.

  • OIF3gunner

    Awesome!!!

  • jimmyz

    The team intentionally drafted Ayers in the 7th round because of his punt return abilities. Let Artie play corner, he returned a total of zero punts in college

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    I did say throw him out there. I said test it. He has the athleticism to do it. Ayers could be the guy but is not a lock to make the team.

  • Brendon Glad

    According to the USATF website, The current American record for the 60m hurdles is 7.36 set by Greg Foster in the mid 80’s and tied twice.
    The current American Juniors record for the 60m hurdles is 7.60.

    That would put him a full 4-5 yards behind Foster, but that’s still an excellent time. Last world-class hurdling CB the Steelers drafted was a guy by the name of Rod Woodson, I believe. Let’s hope he reminds us of #26 in many other ways too.

  • Da Bus Driver

    Man, I just have a good feeling about this kid. Corners have to be able to handle their business. And this guy sounds like he handles his.

  • Ike Evans

    Yep….i was never a fan of most of her articles

  • PaeperCup

    But we can’t just keep ayers on the 53 just to return punts. Sounds like another dri archer. A man can play and be effective in two roles. Just like AB is and Rod Woodson was.

  • PaeperCup

    Burns apparently broke the record for the indoor version of this event. You know I never really understood the difference between indoor vs outdoor. Maybe the outdoor record was set with the wind behind the runners back.

  • John C

    Yes….I read an article where they are all relocating to PGH

  • greeny

    Didn’t Realize Andrea is new. Sorry and I am really not a jerk. My comments were certainly insensitive. Routing for Burns all the way for more reasons than football!

  • David Paul

    The league isn’t filled with Greg Hardy’s and Randy Gregory’s. They just make the news. There are 1700 players in the NFL – it’s unfair to paint them with a broad brush. Markus Wheaton is probably chilling, working out some, playing video games, doing some community work, etc. this offseason.

  • dany

    Im sure he will be at the least strongly encouraged to go finish his degree next offseason. Like Ben and others have done. Or he will do it 5 years after retiring like Joey Porter haha

  • David Paul

    Mr. Rooney mandated that the pass defense must improve. Personnel is one part of that, but scheme is another. We can’t wait a year or two for young guys to learn this overly complex system that saw communications issue plaguing them from opening night all the way through the playoffs.

    Simplify the system and let your athletes play football and stop thinking about playing football.

  • HiVul

    I don’t know Dave, I feel like I’ve heard you say very similar things about character stories before the draft, on the podcast. During the “dead period.”

  • Josh

    AB has been coached to fair catch punts unless the season is on the line (playoff or playoff-implication game). If you review his stats the last couple of years, you’ll find he is no longer the returner he used to be. Steelers need someone else to handle the role.

  • Jonathan Ferullo

    Under LeBeau rookies rarely, if ever, played in their first year. That system was also complex. There really isn’t much difference between now and 10 years ago, as far as how rookies impact the Steelers.

    I would argue that the offense needs to stay healthy and perform as the juggernaut it is billed as. I believe the defense was better than advertised in last year’s play, and should only get better. The pass rush should improve, thus helping the secondary. If that happens, then next year, should be sweet. Only time will tell.

  • Jonathan Ferullo

    I think the point has been made, so just learn from it and enjoy the commentary for the rest of the sites articles. Don’t feel like you can’t comment anymore, but sometimes its best to pause and reread what you are about to say before hitting the “post as ” button.

    Enjoy the season!

  • WB Tarleton

    “Good character” used to mean not having out of wedlock kids as a teen.

    Everyone was congratulating Bryant’s character for “taking care of his kid” when he was drafted too.

    Burns may be a good guy but taking care of a baby you made is not an example of it.

  • John Schneider

    Am I the only one who thinks the Bengals took our guy in both the first and fourth round? I liked WJIII better than Burns and Andrew Billings in the 4th Round?!?! . both were taken one pick before ours. Say what you will about Billings, he was a steal in the 4th regardless of our previous picks.

  • Jesse Hernandez

    Me either!

  • King Black

    I think you’re missing the bigger picture of him taking care of his two brothers.

  • Peezy

    People may think I’m crazy but I see Ike Taylor with Much better hands! #SwagUniversity