Artie Burns Quietly Displaying Marked Improvement In Second Season

I don’t want to jinx it, but in my opinion, Pittsburgh Steelers second-year cornerback Artie Burns is really having himself a nice start to his second season. More than a year after he had a lot of people pulling their hair out after his name was called after “the Pittsburgh Steelers select…” during the 2017 NFL Draft in the first round, he is looking like the smart pick.

And I fully admit that I was certainly among those who had a lot of doubts about him and worried that the pick might just be a bust. He was an underclassman who even at that level was not a full-time starter, but more concerning to me is that he had a very obvious lack of physicality.

Well, that seems to be pretty much gone now. I have seen little to no issues with him from a physicality standpoint so far this year, and I think that shows. In truth, he really should have been a subject for a film room session from me this week, but I had so many other things that I wanted to get to that it just ended up not happening.

He has so far recorded three tackles in each game, all of them coming against the pass, but on only two of those six tackles did the play net a first down. In fact, he has two tackles for a yard’s gain or fewer, the other one even going for a loss of a yard.

This was the highly impressive tackle on Sunday that he made against Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, on which he not only quickly recognized and diagnosed the screen pass, he reacted to it very quickly and was able to evade a would-be blocking wide receiver to get behind the line of scrimmage to make a tackle.

On Sunday, he also recovered the game-clinching fumble forced by William Gay and defended a deep passing target. Spending a lot of time going up against the 6’3” Adam Thielen on Sunday, he was also forced to show his ability to play physical in coverage.

Because the Steelers do have him spending some more time in man coverage, he more often has his back to the ball, so he has not been as active in the run game as one might expect for a Steelers cornerback to be, but I see no reason that he couldn’t contribute in that area.

Compared to where he was around this time last year—or even at the end of last season—he is really looking like a different player when it comes to strength, physicality, aggressiveness, and recognition. That’s what comes with a year of experience and sessions in the weight room. He said he wanted to improve his strength, and that’s what he did.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    Thx MM – yes please do a film room on Burns. I noticed the play you mentioned above and another that was good-not-great but better than last season, but also a handful where he seems to just be floating around the tackle while the runner is still not down.

    Without the kinds of angles you get, it’s hard to tell if he’s maybe further away than it appears or what.
    I believe it was him on one of the run contains tho who missed – Browns game, and if so, that happened to him a fair amount last year.

  • Joeybaggadonuts

    Even though he racked up to PI’s last week, his coverage and knowledge of his assignment have taken away any fears that plagued us his fans last year. At least from my standpoint.

  • John Noh

    Matthew, do you think having Haden line up opposite to him vs. Cockrell has made a positive impact on Artie’s game?

  • Michael Mosgrove

    he needs to be better. needs to have wayyyyy less penalties this year too.

  • Nathanael Dory

    Hes off to a good start minus the penalties. Hes a good one

  • Alan Tman

    So happy we got him as opposed to William Jackson III. By the end of the year he will be one of the best.

  • H.K. northern cali

    Needs a good young tag-team partner.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    I see you, Young Art Burns! Keep doing ya thing!!!

  • Hagen Rinde

    nothing better than proving doubters wrong. I didn’t knew his name when he was picked but many came out and doubted the whole scouting department, Colbert etc.

  • Ken Krampert

    He’s progressing nicely. Now it’s time for some ballhawking. 4 + picks will get him to the next level. Maybe even a pick 6. Is that to much to ask/expect?

  • Matthew Marczi

    That’s hard to say really, especially early on. Perhaps if anything it allows the coaches greater flexibility to mirror coverages on both sides, which could be advantageous to the defense as a whole.

  • Taylor Williams

    I’ll take haden for now

  • Gautama Om

    If Lebeau was still here, Shazier would just be just starting his first full season and Burns wouldn’t even get some part time reps until next year, his 3rd year .

  • Hagen Rinde

    this. thanks.

  • SteelersGeek4Lyfe

    With 3 interceptions last year in 9 starts, and an improved pass rush… I think this is a totally reasonable expectation.

  • Ryan Alderman

    Yes, sir!!

  • WB Tarleton


    Lebeau did not play the kids because he had for most of his time here a world class Super Bowl caliber veteran defense.

    You don’t take out a Troy, James, Ike, Aaron Smith, Bret Keisel, or Casey Hampton in their primes to play kids.

    They got old and the D needed to be rebuilt right around the time he left.

  • popsiclesticks

    I always thought that for whatever issues with physicality that Artie showed in college, he at least had a willingness to mix it up, which is the most important characteristic.

    Miami has been putting out players for a decade that look like they haven’t been coached for a day in their life. Hell, look at what the Steelers have been able to get from Chickillo after shifting him into his natural spot.

  • popsiclesticks

    At worst, the truth is somewhere in the middle. There’s certainly no comparing Ziggy Hood sitting and waiting behind Smith and Keisel to Shazier beating out Vince Williams.

  • Bobby h.

    Come on man! Hes playing good give him some slack he’s still learning every player isn’t perfect we all know that.. How would you do if it was you playing Paul?? Just try an be positive! A lot of fans tend to be too critical of some players that are actually playing pretty decent… Now if a player continues to make the same mistake over an over then it’s time too mention it.. But not nit pick on every lil thing

  • Bobby h.

    Bingo nathanael nicely put! Read what I said… Some people can be to critical he’s still learning an he’s really young too

  • Shawn Thomas

    Facts! This is what many fail to see. Still respect Lebeau but it never evolved as veterans got older and other teams adapted. That last year was brutal at the same time those were not same players. A defense that “difficult” to l learn should be waaay more effective.

  • Brenton deed

    I think they got a bit behind in rebuilding the D and started one or two seasons late… it was because the OL had gotten into a terrible state and I don’t quite remember why that happened. The FO doesn’t neglect positions altogether so I think they whiffed on too many mid round OL picks?? Bad coaching?? I could go over those drafts but does someone remember how the OL got so bad?

    Conversely Coach Munchak buys us picks by developing late rounders.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    Not trying to nit pick, just being real. The author of the artical up voted my comment, so it may just come across to you as negative. I used to watch Burns at Miami, having lived in FL for many years, so kind of looking for those things he was weaker at in college to see how he’s getting better – which he is mostly.

  • Bobby h.

    No problem bro