Film Room: Artie Burns Struggles To Keep A Lid On Things

We’ve written how the Pittsburgh Steelers’ secondary got a little lucky throughout the season and Sunday, they finally got burned on the stat sheet. Artie Burns in particular, as has really been his whole career so far, was up and down. He had some legitimately excellent plays and is showing better technique to play the ball. But there was also some bad. One that resulted in a touchdown, another that should’ve. Let’s look.

The first is De’Anthony Thomas‘ 57 yard TD in the fourth quarter. Big play the Steelers can’t give up. This is all on Burns for falling asleep at the wheel. Thomas, the #2 receiver, runs a literal wheel route. Should be a clear alert. Something the Chiefs do a lot, like we wrote in our scouting report, and when #1 stems inside, you have to be alert for him being replaced by #2.

Burns is in zone, identifying #1 coming inside and pointing him out to make sure he gets picked up. But Burns totally fails to match #2 vertical and Thomas gets behind him. Misses the tackle and Thomas scoots away for the touchdown.

Got worse later in the game. Steelers running their Sam Fire Zone with the nickel corner, Mike Hilton, blitzing off the edge. By far, their most popular fire zone. Here’s a look at it drawn up.

When things go wrong, it’s hard to know exactly what the issue is. But everytime the Steelers run this, the corners have deep third responsibility. Instead, Burns just…leaves and drifts to the middle of the field. The #1 receiver has a free path to the end zone.

The only saving grace is the pressure Hilton got off the edge, forcing a bad throw by Alex Smith. It’s incomplete and the Steelers get away with it.

I will say that things did look a little wonky across the board. The buzzing safety to the flat and dropping OLB get too bunched up and I don’t like how the Steelers replaced Hilton on the other side. Doesn’t look like Ryan Shazier is getting enough width. So there’s a lot of weirdness that maybe creates confusion.

But here is how it’s supposed to look. Against Jacksonville, Burns matching #1 with the safety buzzing.

Unfortunately, for as immensely talented as Burns is, we’ve seen him break down too often when asked to think. When it’s all instinct, the guy can play. When he has to think: crack/replace issues, matching the new ##1 (Thomas’ TD), or juggling the responsibilities in his fire zone, we’ve seen him break down too often. It has to get corrected in order for him to become the #1 corner he has the potential to be.

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • WilliamSekinger

    It’s a little scary to think that the Steelers can have these kind of wholesale breakdowns from an outside corner and still be the #1 passing defense in the league. Man, what happens if they get these issues cleaned up? The second half of the season after the bye is not looking good for opposing offenses.

  • PaeperCup

    I guess I’ll hold off on calling him Smartie Burns

  • will

    @Jones……..well what do you think of Artie’s play now???? Alex summed it up quite well IMO.

  • falconsaftey43

    He plays well overall but has mental mistakes a few times a game. He’s young and he will learn. He was only a part time starter that came out as a junior, and is still learning in year 2, not surprising he’s not always in the right spot.

  • Steve Johnson

    I wish Artie would focus on improving his craft and control his emotions. I think he’s been hanging around Mike Mitchell.

  • Dorian James

    Agreed, to much showing off after doing his job.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    And he can’t tackle

  • Steel Realist PAul

    We all knew Burns was a raw prospect and would take time to develop. That has definitely been the case. His positioning has been problematic since day 1. He’s not being marked as missing tackles at times because he’s in such poor position, it simply doesn’t count as a missed tackle.

    I didn’t like this pick at the time and while I get asked regularly if that has changed, I really see no reason to think Burns can be a #1 corner right now. He was a liability at the end of the game – I was yelling for them to get him off the field before he gave up another TD.

    His celebrating any time a throw to his side is incomplete shows he doesn’t understand how this larger thing works yet. Give him time, but don’t cast your vote for Pro Bowl just yet, like the many I’ve seen so far.

  • DoctorNoah

    In that first play, looms like he was working towards the flat, then realized he was caught between two places. The wR realizes too and then converts to a wheel route maybe, seeing Burns’ back turned. If Burns follows the wheel, that flat is wide open with no black jersey withing 15-18 yards. Where was the breakdown?

  • Alex Kozora

    That’s not Burns’ problem. He’s telling the safety to take #1 in, he’s gotta match #2 on the wheel. Rather throw the flat then let anything behind.

  • Xclewsive

    One of the pluses Joe Haden can provide. Artie is young, but he reminds to much of others i.e Scott/Figures great athletes but never put it all together

  • 6 ring circus

    I wonder do they celebrate like that on Belichek’s team after routine plays. I know they have fun with it after touchdowns and big plays, but c’mon guys…routine plays, stop running 15 yards down field celebrating. Get back to the huddle and concentrate on the next down. This is why some call the Steelers unbuttoned and lacking discipline, lol.

  • dillon degroot

    He’s been getting noticeably better…I don’t see the problem with him showing some emotion and hyping himself and the team up when he makes a play.

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    If you mean hanging around Mike Mitchell who is one of the film room hounds and communicates the defenses – that may actually be a good thing.

  • dillon degroot

    The Patriots celebrate routine plays, just like other teams do…It’s an emotional sport, so anytime you do something that helps your team, you celebrate…Because…you know…you’re happy.

  • 6 ring circus

    Yea, but I see it as excessive. You probably see it differently, and that’s ok.

  • John Noh

    The blown coverage on the DeAnthony Thomas play reminded me of Otto Porter’s appearance on “Shaqtin’ the Fool”.

  • Anthony Palmerston

    I disagree. I love when I see defensive players get seriously pumped up after a good play. That’s what I like to see in my defense…some swag! Just make sure it happens after a good play….a good play doesn’t = when you tackle offensive player, but he still makes a first down. Don’t celebrate that.

  • Anthony Palmerston

    I’m good with the celebrating after a good play. Show me some swagger on defense, I love that and felt like our defense has been missing that for a long time.

  • 6 ring circus

    Well, unfortunately, that’s pretty much what I’m talking about. Tell me Mike Mitchell didn’t look like a toy jacka$$ that got wound up too tight and the spring broke, when he got run over by Fournette after a 12 yard 1st down run

  • Smitty 6788

    Artie made one mistake it was big but it was only one mistake. Im happy with Artie w/o a shadow of a doubt.

  • Alex Kozora

    He made two, both shown here.

  • dillon degroot

    No, I agree it can be excessive at times…I just wonder if they’re doing it purposefully to hype the rest of the defense up, and feed off that emotion, or if they’re doing it because that’s just the type of player they are.

  • Smitty 6788

    I think that was Mitchell’s area they were supposed to switch spots like a trap defense. He immediately pointed at Mitchell.

  • Alex Kozora

    There’s no good evidence to support that. Safety buzzes flat on that concept.

  • Dorian James

    That is exactly what I am referring to LOL.

  • Mark

    Tom Brady is waiting on them. My regrets go out to A Rodgers who would’ve massacred our secondary. Arite Burns need to spend more time on the playbook and with Joe Haden. He’s turning into a baby Mike Mithchell, which isn’t good for him.

  • Nathanael Dory

    Whaaaaat the heellllllllll????!!!!

  • Nathanael Dory

    On another note..Shazier got burn earlier of the game by gettimg too much width maybe he though of adjusting which doesnt look good lol

  • TroymanianDevil

    On the second one, I actually think that entire side of the defense had their call mixed up. Alex as you pointed out the safety and LB end up kinda near each other. And Artie clearly was in some different scheme.
    Only other explanation is that it was some wrinkle where safety rotates under, any trap/bait play, something to make offenses think twice about predetermining where to go against us when we run this since we do it so much. I’m gonna hope it was that, but guess it was probably a busted coverage

  • Danielsteelstrong81

    I hope he fixes this. Brady will see this and pick on em all day.

  • francesco

    I hate to say it. Either you have it or you don’t. ABurns to me does not have it. If Haden ever goes down our secondary is done for.

  • John Pennington

    Burns is going to cost this team in the long run. His poor tackling and his non ability to focus and do his job.He by far is the worst cb against the run the Steelers ever had plus his play against the run is non existent to add to the matter he is dumb on details.The Steelers could have lost this game because of him and something needs to be done with Burns either bench him or replace him .2 years and he is no better against the run and to much standing around watching other people do his job.Bench him until he figures it out that he needs to help in the run game and stop being afraid to tackle.

  • Darth Blount 47

    Unless you have a true #1 CB, a guy who is unquestionably the best and/or always is put upon the best WR that the opposing team has to offer, then it really is semantics to call one guy the #1 and the other the #2, when both are always on the field, as a 1-2. That said, can it be argued that Joe Haden IS the number 1 CB and Artie Burns his young apprentice as #2? Many would say no. However, this is Bengals week, yes? And last I checked, AJ Green is the unquestioned #1 WR for the Bengals. And also last I checked, Joe Haden has been a tiger hunter, for the many years of his career. It will be interesting to watch how this weekend goes down, as it pertains to stopping and covering AJ Green. For if we can shut down Green, our chances to win rise significantly.

    When we got Haden, many including myself, were thrilled at the very idea of him being able to let Artie Burns sort of settle into a leadership role at a more slowly and less-defined pace. I think we find out this week, if Haden was the ticket to truly let that happen. The Bungle defense is pretty stacked and has given us problems in the past. Ben’s record in Cincy is stellar, as is my own (I’ve never seen our team lose there in 7 visits). However, much like my record watching the Bungles play us in Pittsburgh, the record is less than stellar.

    I admit that watching the Bungles trot out Dennard, Lawson, Willis, Billings, and William Jackson III, is odd. But if Artie can continue to get better, grow, and truly become our shutdown CB, then this Defense will be better for it by a mile. But if it is the mental aspect of the game that constantly needs tuning, I think we all know how that turned out for players like Shamarko. At CB in 2017, you CANNOT live off of athleticism alone. The passing game rules are just too unforgiving and the defensive philosophies used to combat them, just too complex. Here’s to hoping Burns settles in and gets it, before we go against Darth Brady.

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    I’m not seeing a true #1 corner either. His mental mistakes are very worrisome.

  • Scott N.

    Well said.

  • gdeuce

    their defense can’t celebrate, they’ve given up a 300 yard passer every week

  • Michael Conrad

    Looks like a steeler tried to jump the short route and AB should have stayed outside but this is his second year and I hope he still has room for improvement . The light may go on after he has a DB challenge for his job. I would like to see Sutton before the end of the year .

    The last thing the Steelers need to do is go into next years draft without any Idea of Sutton’s ability in coverage or if he can stay healthy.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    Love swagger. Deebo has swagger. Hilton has swagger. Haden has swagger. And you’re damn skippy this defense needs more of it.

    That’s not what I see with Burns. On a play that two linemen beat their men and force a high throw that Burns is in proper position for, he reacts like he’s Superman afterward, as if he did something amazing and did it alone. He’s young.

  • The Truth

    But that doesn’t explain his total lack of effort. The guy simply didn’t even try to get back in the play to attempt another tackle on Thomas.

  • The Truth

    The Pats celebrate making good plays. They don’t celebrate letting a player get a first down. When I watch the Steelers it appears they are more concerned with their next celebration rather than the next play or the game itself. The Steelers will miss tackles and assignments, but they never forget to dance.

  • The Truth

    Which is why he will never be anything more than an average CB at best, IMO. He isn’t focused on the game. He is focused on the spotlight. He is a typical millennial.

  • Alex K

    The Steelers have played junk QB’s most of the year. Alex Smith is the only decent one.

  • colingrant

    Overall, he’s on schedule. Perhaps, slightly ahead. Excellent draft pick

  • WilliamSekinger

    This game was billed by many as a legitimate test for the secondary. I think they passed with flying colors.

  • Smitty 6788

    I still feel that was a variation of the normal .. Just don’t see Artie being that demonstrative if he was in the wrong .

  • ND_Steel

    Sometimes you just watch these plays and are like…”what the hell are they thinking?” They get so focused on what their assignments are that they don’t even pay attention to the play unfolding in front of them and communicating. Then there is the whole timing thing…gotta have a clock in your head…most plays happen in cadence…you know about when your D Line is going to get home based on how many rushers you sent…in most cases, get tight on a WR! Just mind-numbing when this is their profession and don’t have good “Football IQ”…

  • steelmann58

    He needs to get his head together

  • steelmann58

    Burns needs to get mentally readyy

  • Dan

    They seem to be asking more of him this year, and he’s struggling with the increased responsibility. I’m interested in seeing how Artie will look at the end of the season compared to this first half, to see if he gets used to his role. He’s gotten away with some mistakes.

  • Steve

    We will see the Pats in December, so mark it on your calendar.

  • Joe

    He is now the full time starter in his second season. There is no excuses for those breakdowns and poor tackling. Do your job and stop celebrating afterwards.

  • Joe

    Those mistakes are touchdowns against better QBs. Still having communication breakdowns after 6 weeks of football. Ridiculous! What exactly then are all the OTAs, mini camp and training camp for? Better QBs are ahead. Lucky for them they won’t be facing Rodgers.

  • StolenUpVotes

    Scott was much more successful than figures at least.

  • Dennis Nevinsky

    Our passing defense has been poor for several years. Now that it is rated number one in the league, you are still afraid of Brady. The Steelers are going to knock the Patriots out of a top seed in the playoffs.

  • Anthony Palmerston

    Nah. That’s not what I mean by swagger. I’m talking about the extra nastiness in a player is what I want to see. That get up in your face screaming mad man type stuff.

  • Anthony Palmerston

    You’re absolutely right about that Mitchell crap. I hate that!

  • Mister Wirez

    Lol. People’s been saying that since 2003. It’s time to put up or shut up, because I think old Tom might outlast old Ben. That would mean Ben & the Steelers never beat Brady/Belichek in a meaningful/playoff game. Seriously, I’ll believe it when I see it.

  • Mister Wirez

    Maybe someone with a little more experience should be directing the DBs in-play, so young Artie can focus just on the task at hand.

  • gdeuce

    no Rodgers, no Luck, Stafford maybe without Tate

  • Will

    How do we have the same user name?

  • Doug Andrews

    Can’t play fast if you’re out there thinking too much. Burns needs to have these defensive coverages down to a science.

  • Will

    Who the hell is saying he is Pro Bowl material right now?

    I think the consensus is that he was very raw, enough that he wouldn’t be a starter the first year. But he rose to the challenge and this year he has done…OK. He makes plays that are exceptional and he flakes out on others. I am hopeful that he will continue to learn with repetition and now with a former #1 corner in Haden maybe he can learn from him as well.

  • Taylor Williams

    The only elite QB we’ll face is Brady.
    Everyone else is out or without weapons.
    We just beat the best offense, shut them down for 3 quarters.

    If the offense scores more than 20 points a game, we’ll be fine.

  • Taylor Williams

    Rodgers massacred every secondary he went against except the 2013-2014 Seahawks.

  • Taylor Williams

    The only scary guy this season is Brady, always has been.
    We have the talent to shut him down, but he’ll still put up numbers. That dink and dunk will kill us like always.

    Rodgers is hurt, but the Packers offense isn’t scary with or without him. Our front 7 would destroy them. They have meh recievers. Play calling is just as atrocious as ours.
    Stafford has no weapons.

  • Rich Stafford

    I know you don’t like Haden but he has been solid as a rock. Burns looks stiff to me. When ball is in the air he panics. He runs like Eric Dickerson used to, straight up. Even though he has lost a step Haden looks athletic and changes direction effortlessly. He still flips his hips with the best of them. Burns is fast but doesn’t look athletic when he has to speed turn or flip his hips and run.

  • Steve

    Thats happens to most of your LB’s. I remember Jerome running over Urlacher, like he was a Flee, for a TD. Mitchell is a Safety much smaller than Urlacher

  • Steve

    Bortles was not Elite, but he did well enough to win and in the end that is all that counts.

  • will

    I have no idea. Had this for 4 years. Lowaer w v. W must be it.

  • Zach Clary

    Burns will clean it up, I guarantee that the coaches have been in his ear about this already, and I’m sure he’s been watching the film. These are some pretty boneheaded mistakes though.

  • Joeybaggadonuts

    If there is a silver lining, this is more mental, which, unless he is a mental deficient, is hopefully is correctable. He seems to be real good in man coverage.

  • Conserv_58

    Artie’s play in the Chiefs’ game was both feast and famine. He needs to develop more consistency to be more feast than famine. I’m sure that Carnell Lake pointed his inconsistencies out during film study.

  • Joeybaggadonuts

    WTF was that.

  • Uncle Rico.

    In both Chief’s plays the coverage is kinda the same. Looks like they’re running Tampa 2 in dime with Gay in at VW’s spot. Gay becomes the deep middle third with the 2 safeties outside. So Burns would have the flat. However, on that second bust, Burns waves Mitchell down. It looks like they have an inversion game going, swapping Mitchell to the flat and Burns to the deep outside 3rd. From presnap, looked like it was Mitchell’s idea, likely expecting to jump an out route at the sticks ala Polamalu. But I don’t think Burns knows or understands what an inversion game is. It’s like he thought Mitchell was taking man coverage on Robinson, freeing Burns up. Or Burns somehow didn’t know what deep shell they were in and was playing halves or centerfield instead of that sorta deep 3rds. It was a good idea, had Burns played it correctly.

    On the first play, Davis jumped down on that skinny post by the #1. Leaving no one over the top to Burns side. Kinda weird. He alerted Davis to the deep in breaking route of the #1, showing good awareness and communication, but then loses track of Thomas. He knows Davis has jumped that #1, so he knows he has no more deep help, and can’t let anyone behind him. That’s just a mental lapse. Which doesn’t worry me too much until it becomes repetitive. That second one does bother me, because he clearly didn’t understand Mitchell’s initial responsibility that he was swapping into. This is why you need to know more than just your part in each play.

  • disqus_GDPkm232hS

    I don’t think the corners got tested very heavily. I think it had more to do with the front-7 getting pressure. They had 3 sacks and 9 QB hits and Tuitt batted one down on 34 pass attempts. KC’s WR’s aren’t that established. They did do a nice job containing Kelce, and tackling the RB’s after catches.

  • I believe Discus uses an unique id in their database to differentiate instead of visible name. I have met several different Garys on discus run site comments.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    Just had a convo with someone in the last week or so about how funny it was that we all wanted WJIII, who the bengals took just ahead of the Steelers pick. He said, “who on earth would prefer WJIII over Burns now, he’s going to the Pro Bowl in his second year”. Plenty of fans see the number 1 pick and just gush, regardless.

    Earlier this year, pre-Haden, I suggested the Steelers would do better if they could bring in a true #1 CB. You’d think I denigrated the Rooney family with the responses to that.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    My take is burns is a prima donna.

  • will

    “The best defense is a good offense.”

  • will

    He may have “Shemarko-itis”

  • will

    Using a Tomlin phrase………Artie may not be a “low rep.” guy.

  • Mark

    Dennis, I hope so. It is time for us to get over the Brady/Belichick era. They have owned us for way too long. However, McDonald, LeVeon, MB, and JuJu must have a big game for us to win

  • MintDragon

    Both looked like communication breakdowns. Fixable.

  • Anthony Palmerston

    I guess we just need him to perform well and all the other stuff won’t matter.

  • curtis williams

    Are cover anybody

  • curtis williams

    Mike Mitchell could have had 4 interceptions this year he’s just looking for a big hit