PFF Credits Artie Burns For Limiting Receivers Through 4 Weeks

I think the fact that we don’t really talk about his age anymore is a testament to just how much Artie Burns has already developed over the course of his first season-and-a-quarter. He is still the fourth-youngest player on the roster, and even that by only a few days, yet he is already affixed in the starting lineup as a quasi-veteran with less than a season’s worth of starts.

While he has been penalized not infrequently—his four flags drawn is tied for the most on the team with the actual youngest player, JuJu Smith-Schuster—his game has been solid overall, both against the pass and in the run.

That is, of course, excepting an egregious error here and there, but I think it would be wise not to assume that one or two plays against the run against the Bears should define him. He has shown too much good, in my opinion, to allow that theme to stick.

Pro Football Focus has also been impressed with his early work in the season when it comes to limiting the productivity of the wide receivers that he is matched up against. According to their charting, he is giving up the third-fewest yards per coverage snap in the league among qualifying cornerbacks.

At just .39 yards per snap in coverage, Burns ranks behind just Jalen Ramsey, whom the Steelers will see next week, and Patrick Peterson, who is a perennial Pro Bowler. The NFL average yards allowed per snap in coverage is 1.14.

Writes Sam Monson, “Artie Burns has began the 2017 season well, and despite being relatively heavily targeted (21 through four games), he has allowed only 11 receptions for 61 yards”. He continued, adding that “though one of those catches went for a touchdown, he has broken up two of the incompletions, and those 11 receptions have averaged 5.5 yards per catch”.

Officially, Burns is actually credited with three passes defensed on the season to date, although he is still looking for his first interception after recording three of them over the course of the final nine regular season games since he entered the starting lineup.

In terms of targets, the second-year cornerback has seen only an average amount of work, averaging a target once every 7.5 snaps in coverage. Morris Claiborne has seen a target just once every 12.5 snaps, while Jalen Mills has been bombarded once every 3.7 snaps in coverage.

On Burns’ 11 receptions allowed, credited by the site, he has allowed just 21 yards after the catch, and an NFL quarterback rating when targeted of 74.1 The former first-round pick is making serious strides, and while he has his ‘rookie’ moments still at times, at others he certainly looks every bit the real deal.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Steve Johnson

    I think the real test will come when the Steelers play at K.C. We will then see just how good this young Defense really is.

  • Doug

    I wonder if the people laughing at Colbert/Tomlin for picking him in the first round will finally admit that they’re wrong…

  • Lil Smitty

    No! They will just say Tomlin/Colbert got lucky.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I like Artie a lot but one thing the stats do not show is that he has been beaten deep a couple of times but we either had a drop or poor pass for incompletions…I feel this story would be way different if a couple of those burnt toast situations goes the other way.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    This seems very early to suggest, and of course these are just early season stats, but 2 or 3 passes defended out of 21 does not the real deal make.

    Much of this is scheme based and there are all sorts of plays and happenings within plays that aren’t captured in statistics. When you watch him play, he looks every bit his age and lack of time played.

  • I still remember the amount of disdain for the pick when his name was announced. SMH

    He still will make some mistakes from time to time, but he is growing, and growing quite nicely.

  • Every corner gets beat from time to time. Was it last year(?) when Chris Harris was the top rated corner who didn’t give up a TD the whole year, until AB burnt him for 2 and over 100 yards receiving.

  • JT

    Even if the stats are inflated here, he’s no doubt shown coverage progress. Now if people want to complain about his run fills, that’s legit. But he and Haden are the best cover duo we’ve seen in years and it’s not even close.

  • SwagDaddy330

    This should shut up the “Fire Carnell Lake” crowd….. but of course he has nothing to do with the DB’s when they’re playing well, right?

  • No, no, no, they entire team plays well IN SPITE of the coaching staff.

    Give me a break…

  • StrengthOfVictory

    You can bet after Baltimore…especially at home…that AB will want to eat Ramsey’s lunch for him. Should be a good matchup to watch.

  • The Tony

    You can say the same with Ben on the road. If he hits Bryant for the 80 yard TD and the 30 yard one as well, then his stats look way better. You can only count what actually happens and not what could have been

  • steelereign

    I am sure that Artie is making progress, but let’s not forget that he’s played against Kizer, Keenum, Glennon, and a seriously regressed Joe Flacco.

    If he continues to show this kind of performance against Alex Smith, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Matt Stafford then we’ve got something to talk about.

  • srdan

    Nah man, it’s the NFL. You can’t sleep on any team. And the KC offense is nothing special, they jsut make you defend every square inch. They can attack anywhere, but don’t excel at anything.

    I watched them last night. And I love Hunt, I wanted us to draft him, when we didn’t, I got him in fantasy hehe. And he is good, but not an elite back. Andy uses him right. They lost maclin and didn’t invest in that position. Hill will make those popcorn plays. I’d love to see Hilton on Hill. That would be exciting to watch. Kelce is Kelce. I never thought of him as much as fantasy sites and NFL reporters do. And then the wildcard at QB.

    Now that I’ve listed all that maybe I should retract my first statement. But do you really expect it to go any different than the playoff game?

  • The Tony

    I disagree with you. Burns has actually looked to be in position much more often than not. He seems to be playing with instincts rather than just his physical gifts now. It’s easy to say he hasn’t looked good because of one or two plays that he might have been beat on (even though they weren’t completions). Burns to me has an arrow pointing straight up and I would not be surprised at all that this week vs Bortles he get his first INT of the season

  • srdan

    Jax played the ravens, jets, Houston(who started?) and Tennesee. Tennesse lit them up for 37pts. Not sure how Ramsey fared. If you want to ding Artie, then put everyone on the same platform.

    And since when do we list Alex Smith in those elite circles?

  • steelereign

    I didn’t “ding” Artie, I simply suggested that we will see how much progress he’s really made against good quarterbacks. And, yes, Alex Smith is considered a good quarterback. I didn’t label him as elite.

  • srdan

    I can see what you’re saying. Like that pryor TD last night. That was a fluke. Peters was there, missed the ball, Pryor didn’t even fight for it and scored.

    But a quarter of a season is a quarter of a season. It’s hard to argue that numbers from a sample that big. Plus the guys around him in those stats are known for being elite.

  • The Tony

    You’re forgetting that they have only a mediocre offensive line which makes Smith have to run in the pocket. It looks like they might have lost their best lineman Duvernay-Tardif for an extended time. That injury to the knee did not look good. Their defense without Berry is pretty average. Aside from Justin Houston, which Gilbert was able to shutdown last year doesn’t provide much of as pass rush. Peters is good at tracking the ball but he still has a lot to learn as he frequently gets beat as well.

    I also have Hunt… and Bell

  • srdan

    I think one thing we have this year that we didn’t last year is a pass rush. Last year we got sacks, but this year it seems like we get constant pressure (after we stop the run).

    Yes in 8 man league I have hunt and Elliot. I try to stay away from steelers players, i often overvalue them and it bit me in the past.

  • srdan

    How is that other kid doing for the bungles? WJIII

  • The Sun is Pro-Black

    He got a pick 6 last week I think, that or the week before.

  • Sam Clonch

    I had barely even heard of him before the draft. I think I saw all of 1 mock draft that had him coming to us. Most said it would be WJIII. After he was gone, I had no idea who it was going to be. I remember being intrigued by him once I looked him up, and the decision seemed to make sense. I wasn’t mad about it, just caught off guard. Obviously feeling good about it now, like most others!

  • The Tony

    The pass rush starts with the big men up front. Tuitt, Heyward, and Hargrave have been tremendous thus far. I am hoping we can get a combined 20 plus sacks from the three of them this season

  • The Tony

    I remember thinking that since he was a two sport star that if he has this much talent and potential to be a first round pick, then when he solely focuses on football that we are going to have a special player

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    Pryor also pushed off.

  • gdeuce

    that was 2 years ago

  • srdan

    unfortunately in the regular season.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    I can respect that. I’m going off watching him whenever the play goes to his side. Personally, I’m seeing a lot more than just a couple of broken plays.

    Not that I think he’s done growing yet, far from it. I actually think his ceiling is higher than where he is, but I don’t believe he will be elite.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    Yep, we’ll just have to see how he looks throughout his second season, but again, there are multiple things that aren’t tracked and he’s got a fair ways to go with being a starting NFL player for sure.

  • pittfan

    Alex Smith is a very good QB. I

  • pittfan


  • I couldn’t remember, that’s why I had the “?” in there.

  • Many at the time felt like it was a huge reach since this site had a mid to late second round grade on him.

  • SteelersGeek4Lyfe

    The fact is, Artie played much better in his first season than anyone outside of Pittsburgh’s front office expected, has shown growth, and is still very, very young. I’ll take that 10 times out of 10. All players take their lumps early on, a few mistakes are not a huge deal to me. There aren’t many (if any) corners in the league I would trade Artie for, this dude is going to be the cornerstone of our secondary for years to come.

  • Gautama Om

    You don’t get completely lucky when you’re betting on a player with your 1st round pick. It’s a clear statement from the Steelers that they believe in this guy from things that were obvious to them during the scouting process. Luck is more like AB or Tom Brady in the 6th, much less so in the 1st round.

  • Gautama Om

    I’m with you 100% but the Coaches should take some of the blame when we play poorly…unless homers don’t think coaches have any effect on the game in anyway (cough). If they did then there should be ZERO arguments from the Homers.

  • ThatGuy

    I thought that Cam and Tuitt would be living in the backfield when we play them before that injury last night now I think they’re going to bully that entire OL for KC.

  • Darth Blount 47

    The track record of 1st round picks under Colbert has been quite damn good. The depth provided to us from the recent draft classes, has been quite good as well, which is why the Steelers are beginning to be resurgent. We are building through the draft, and now recently, beginning to supplement with a few FA/trade pickups. The plan is coming together, nicely.

    Burns has shown the type of progression I was hoping to see more of from Sean Davis. The great thing about Burns, is how young he is. And getting thrown into the fires right away, is going to pay dividends. Ike Taylor can tell you, a huge part of playing CB is swagger. And I truly believe that having a good D around you, can give you even more confidence in yourself, when it comes to playing CB. The synergistic effect can NOT be understated. And the youth movement, all working and growing now together, will do wonders for a locker room. I’m becoming excited about our Defense for the first time in a while. I just wish the play at Safety was on an upper tier. If we had that, a “Polamalu-like” player back there right now, the sky would truly be the limit.

    But I’ll take having Burns, Haden, and Hilton, helping to lock down the opposition. Feels good. This week, a test arrives on one sort, because Hurns and Lee and the Jags, are some bigger guys. So we’ll get to view just how physical the tandem is going to play when they need to put on big-boy pants. Should help us get ready for AJ Green in a few weeks.

  • Don

    Right. And over 180 yds, if I recall.

  • Matt

    Alex Smith is playing at an elite level through the first 4 weeks. Over their entire careers Ben has been better than Smith, but through the first 4 weeks of this year, there isn’t an argument for saying Ben has been a better QB than Smith. In fact, I don’t think there are four other guys who could be rated higher than Smith through week 4.

    As for Burns, he seems to be doing well in large part. But he’s also been the beneficiary of some drops and bad QB play. Every corner gets a bit of that, so you can’t knock him for it. But I think it is a reason to hold off on “crowning him” as Dennis Green would say. I think that by mid-season we’ll have a better gauge on where Burns stacks up. I hope he continues to show improvement.

  • The Tony

    Burns has the physical tools to be elite. It is entirely too early to pass judgement

  • nutty32

    Jury’s still out. He’s yet to be really tested. I question the value of the PFF formula after only 4 games/SSS v. 4 run oriented offenses. You give up a 1 big bomb on a blown coverage and that one play shallows everything else up. Burns has show he’s a solid starter, but 3rd best in the league is ridiculous.

  • srdan

    But if we are completely honest as a fan base, when the bungles drafted one ahead of us and took WJIII, we all were upset and would have rather had WJ. But today, would you trade Artie for him? I wouldn’t, but I’m a homer.

  • Jon Hartman

    why can’t you be happy about burns? we finally got a shutdown corner. we didn’t have that since ike taylor/ rod woodson. quit complaining.

  • nutty32

    I am happy. Having a solid starter at arguably the hardest position in the game is nothing to sneeze at. Add the upside & it’s a good sitch for sure.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    The CB position isn’t made up entirely of physical tools – see Darrel Revis.

    Elite players tend to show that early – see Marcus Peters.

    While he may be a solid starter and who knows may make the pro bowl someday down the line, he will not likely suddenly become elite.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    We haven’t seen enough from WJIII to make that comment, but I totally agree. The step down seemed much steeper than it does now, if there is one at all.

  • JT

    It’s so hard to find a true difference maker at safety. Outside of Eric Berry (RIP to his season), who has been performing at that elite level consistently? Earl Thomas, Harrison Smith maybe. But otherwise you have a bunch of athletic freaks who don’t perform consistently. It’s a far cry from the days of Reed and Polamalu terrorizing defenses.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Lets remember to have patience with Artie next time he takes a PI penalty or gets burned for a TD once in a blue moon. Definitely he is doing very well overall.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I wasn’t laughing when they picked him (probably closer to crying than laughing), but I have admitted I was wrong.

  • sixnine

    He sure looked good against K.C in the beat who is on your schedule…nobody puts a downer on our players like our fans..smh

  • mezzetin1

    Where all dem bunghole fans at??

  • Shannon Stephenson


  • Jim Foles

    two plays against the run against the mean… The Bears running and the Refs blindness to holding/tackling non calls.

  • Steve Johnson

    You make a valid point; but, I still think K.C. will be their biggest test followed by Detroit. K.C. is playing much better than what they did last year. And for the record, they played better than the Steelers did in that playoff loss. Dumb Stupid penalties saved the Steelers in that game. I do agree with you, the Steelers Pass Rush is far superior than what they had in 2016. But they have not done too well against the run. They will have to contain Smith, he can still be dangerous running out of the pocket. And lets not forget Kelcie, the guy is a baby Gronkowski.
    I think the Steelers are a better team, but they don’t always play like it consistently, especially on the road. Better yet, the QB looks horrible, indecisive and takes far too many chances throwing the Football. I think this will be their biggest test thus far followed by the Detroit Lions. If #7 spreads the ball around, get all the WR’s involved and minimize Int’s, I like their chances.