Film Room: Artie Gets Burned In Detroit

Lots of plays to dig into in today’s series of film studies so let’s just dig right in. The first one highlights the play of Artie Burns, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ second-year cornerback, who had himself something of an adventurous game, including a dive into the frightening world of run support.

Burns makes an inauspicious early entry here on the second play of the game. Playing off in man coverage on Marvin Jones, the veteran receiver ran through him at the chains before hooking back inside, only to pull a double move, hook-and-go down the field for a big 43-yard reception. Not a great beginning.

It’s fair to point out that Matthew Stafford had time to roll out of the pocket and launch this one though. Buuuuut he also got away with pass interference, so, yeah. Bad play.

Late in the first quarter, the seemingly contact-averse cornerback was forced to play the run when Ameer Abdullah came his way, kinda-sorta making the tackle after eight yards.

Late in the first half, Burns was in coverage against T.J. Jones, playing far off the line on first and 10. The receiver broke for an out route at the chains, but turned back up the field behind the cornerback, squeezing in before the safety could help for 25 yards.

He was forced into run support again two plays later as Abdullah bounced a run to his left, but the former first-round pick does have to get credit here for working him down the sideline and forcing him out of bounds after five yards. Considering the number of missed tackles in this game…

On the final offensive play of the half, Burns was sent on a cornerback blitz from outside the numbers. It was a long way to run, and I’m not sure if he influenced the throw much at all, but that’s the play design. Joe Haden had good coverage in the end zone.

Now into the fourth quarter, Jones caught a short crosser on the other side of the field, but he made enough tacklers miss that it ended up being Burns, outside the numbers on the other side of the field, making the tackle. And he did make the tackle.

Last, but not least, on the final series of the game for the Lions, he was in coverage on Jones for a fade in the end zone. It looked like he was in good position, but mistimed his jump. This was actually a great ball that should have scored the go-ahead touchdown.

I’d like to think that that’s why Burns looked displeased with himself after the play, because he really didn’t play this one well enough. Not a great game for him overall, and Stafford certainly wasn’t afraid of him. He’s still growing and learning, but the Steelers will need better from him in the long run.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • falconsaftey43

    oh man, you missed his worst play where he just ran next to the ball carrier down the left sideline and leaned on him instead of trying to tackle him at all. I don’t remember when specifically that happened, but it was hard to watch.

  • pittfan

    I dont recall a Steelers player looking more reluctant to tackle than this guy. If he was shutting WRs down it would be one thing but he’s not.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    He’ll need to get better all around. When he made that decent tackle on Abdullah, I literally stood up and clapped for him. It’s not the physical skills that are holding him back.

  • John Pennington

    Why dont the coaches especially Lake say something to Burns about his tackling or non tackling instead of watching him go thru the motion and say nothing. HE by far is the worst tackler on the team.He seems to dont care or dont think he has to tackle.Steelers need to draft a corner who can cover and able to support the run and thats not Burns.He will cost the team a big game and its coming because of his lack of effort in supporting the run just like Chicago game.To the ground I go Burns.

  • Nathanael Dory

    You sure its not about Haden you are talking about?

  • falconsaftey43

    I’m sure. was Burns and was on the left sideline (where Burns plays). I’ll see if I can find it tonight, haven’t had a lot of time this week to re-watch it.

  • falconsaftey43

    How do you know the coaches haven’t said something to Burns? They go through film sessions everyweek, I’d assume he gets called out for his poor tackling. It’s pretty obvious.

  • francesco

    Reminds me a little of Antwon Blake. At least Antwon had a hand injury as a reason.

  • Uncle Rico.

    The 25 yarder to TJ Jones, Burns needs to reroute inside to his help. If he can’t then he needs to do a better job of disrupting his route to at least give his safety a chance. And if he gets outside it automatically turns to man coverage. But Burns just releases him and sits in his zone. That’s just an all-around snap to whistle bad play by Burns. Compounding this, Butler plays his FS about 5 yards deeper than most defenses. In C2, usually they start off at about 12-15 yards off this he ball, then sink to 18-20 postsnap. Here, you see Mitchell cross the 50 in his drop, about 26-27 yards deep. Not clear why that is, but it’s by design. Maybe Butler is bumping the odds for a chunk play to lesser the odds for a chunkier TD. Not sure.

    This was a weird game. I thought the coverage for the most part was really good all night. On almost every play, someone is gonna mess up their leverage, technique, assignment, etc. And more often than not, the QB will never see it as his focus is elsewhere. But this game it was like Stafford always saw the gap/flaw immediately, got the ball out fast, and was throwing bee-bees. I don’t get to see Stafford much. He was really impressive that night. I know that was a lot of big plays surrendered. And mistakes were made. But I’m more inclined to tip the cap to really outstanding QB’ing.

  • JT

    Great point on Stafford. People seem reluctant to give Stafford credit and think that if he put up those numbers it can only get worse. But to your point, he took advantage of almost every mistake. I don’t think it’s fair to say any other QB could have done better, or made them look worse.

  • Burns plays on the right side. It’s in the GIFs above.

  • The 1st GIF is a scramble play. We have been on the other side of that for so many years with Ben and (insert WR’s name here). There isn’t a CB in the league that gives up a play like that from time to time.

    The 2nd GIF, maybe he could have been more physical but anytime your DB gave up a tackle to a RB for 8 yards the front 7 missed a gap or failed to contain the outside run.

    The 3rd GIF is clearly zone. Haden does the same exact thing on the opposite side – passes the WR off the the deep safety. Great throw by Stafford to stick it in the hole in the zones.

    The 4th GIF may have been one of his better plays against the run in the game. He maintain outside contain. Ok, maybe he didn’t make the tackle, but he didn’t give up any yards after his contact either.

    5th GIF, Nothing really to say about his blitz, other than the entire defense shifts to the right seconds before the snap. Stafford knows a blitz is going to come from that side and he does a good job of getting the ball out quickly.

    The 6th GIF, zone coverage again, WR running with the ball breaks 2 (maybe 3 tackles) and Burns makes the play. Again, we would all like him to be more physical but he didn’t give up any extra yards after his contact

    The 7th GIF, great coverage, just missed timed his jump. His coverage definitely affected the WR’s ability to make the catch. Had he timed it better, maybe that is an INT instead of a field goal.

    I said it after the game. I though he played well above the line. If these were his worst plays in the game, then that only reaffirms my initial reaction.

  • Cavallonator

    I don’t know much about playing Corner, but why does he line up so far away from the receiver every play unless blitzing? He is always 10 yards + off and rarely gets physical at the line.

    I could understand if he was considered slow or even didn’t have high expectations (antwon blake), but guy is a first round pick and was a track star. He clearly isn’t slow.

    We see time and time again on 3rd and manageable the guy is 15 yards off… just don’t understand it

  • falconsaftey43

    yes. He plays defensive right. I was talking offensive left, sorry for confusion, because I was talking about what sideline the WR/RB was running down. It was Burns on his usual side.

  • capehouse

    I really don’t have a problem with Burns. It’s ok if he’s not all that physical. Not gonna blame him in zone coverage either, especially when Mitchell was late rotating over. It’s also not only fair to point out Stafford was able to escape the pocket in that first gif, but it’s also the main reason that play had so much success. Watt loses contain. You can’t allow a QB that much time to throw. No CB can cover his man that long. Watt is to blame, not Burns. I also think that play where Burns forces Abdullah out of bounds was an excellent play by Burns extending his arm just as the RB tries to stiff arm.

  • Anthony Palmerston

    On the left if you’re looking from the offense point of view

  • It can be confusing, I usually go from the Steelers perspective.

  • Steeler Nation!

    The first one is on Watt more than Burns. Cant cover them forever. The 2nd one looked pretty bad, as he got away with an ugly arm tackle. That’s not usually going to get the job done. The 6th one is ugly because he is walking. Everyone else on the field is hustling to get to the ball and he is walking, until he sees he HAS to do something. Agree with the above about the depth of the safeties. Gonna be some nice holes to fit it in there.

  • Stafford made some great throws last week. No question about that. Luckily that same success alluded him in the redzone.

  • “Ugly arm tackle” and “walking” is a little nit picky I think. He made the plays regardless.

  • falconsaftey43

    Just depends on the defense they are in. He sits deeper and flat footed a lot when in zone. He doesn’t even move when the ball is snapped sometimes, his speed allows him to do this because he knows he can turn and run with a guy if they go vertical, or break on the underneath stuff.

  • That is exactly how “Big Play” Will Gay earned his nicname and has 6 pick 6s.

    That is why I am a huge fan of zone coverages, sure they have weaknesses (man coverage has its weaknesses as well) but the DBs can sit back and read the QB. They are more likely to jump routes for INTs from zone coverage.

  • jsteeler72

    These are things noticed by other teams with good QB play. They are tendencies in the defensive scheme or that the players have exhibited to be exploited. Plain and simple. This did not seem to be a great defensive game plan against a very poor offensive line. The thought coming in was attack,attack. We played passive and set back in coverage just as in the AFC Championship game and got exposed. That recipe hasn’t worked against good QB’s in the past and I don’t see it being effective now.

  • treeher

    On the first play, how is that any different than the one that AB got flagged on to nullify a touchdown? Arm extension? I still think we were robbed.

  • treeher

    I notice that Burns does not play “hot,” meaning that when the play is not directly at him, he tends to be relaxed and flat footed. Then he reacts when play comes to him. He needs to be WAY more active and aggressive on every play. This probably contributes to his so-so tackling.

  • falconsaftey43

    I don’t have the numbers, but they did blitz a lot in that game, their RBs just did a great job of picking it up. wasn’t till later in the game they started only rushing 3 (likely because rushing 4-5 wasn’t getting home, so why not devote those guys to coverage instead).

  • Steeler Nation!

    What? You have got to be s$&@ing me! Walking? The arm tackle was bad and will cost us big if that technique gets your approval. But the walking during the play? I bet he got his a$$ reamed during film. He sure deserves it.

  • Richard Gray

    You’ll recall that Deion Sanders wasn’t much on tackling either.

  • 6 ring circus

    I guess Pennington is presuming they haven’t talked to him because it is a lingering problem that appears to have gone uncorrected. Or something like that!

  • #beatthepats

    Well call me controversial , but was also burnt bad for a td in kc, he is a poor tackler, not good in run support and inconsistent in zone coverage, the play in the corner of the end zone , he got turned and flat footed , should have been a td A Taylor made pick 6 against Cincy he simply missed, would like to see him lock down in man coverage more, seems to be the best part of his game, overall he needs to get better, especially for our first first round corner in years. Watch Joe Haden high point that ball for a pick that ultimately didn’t count and you see what excellent corner play looks like

  • will


  • capehouse

    How do you reroute and out and up to inside help?

  • Roblisberger

    Never mention that name

  • capehouse

    Did you see Haden get juked on a similar play? They’re CBs. At least he made the tackle.

  • Uncle Rico.

    Like Haden did on the other side. You start with outside leverage. And you don’t usually play that far off the receiver in C2. Like I said, if you do give up an outside release in C2, forget the flat, it automatically becomes man coverage for Burns. On this one play, there wasn’t one thing Burns did correctly.

  • Uncle Rico.

    I agree the pass rush was passive. Not many 5 man blitzes and their 4 man rushes didnt draw much from unconventional rushers with the frequency as previous games. Rushed 3 probably more than 5. But im not going to knock butler too much for that. 4 rushers shouldve been enough against this line, and Stafford did burn them on 5 man blitzes. Like the first pass of the game (gif above).

    But Im not sure what tendencies got exploited. The tendencies coming in were the middle of the D. Stafford did most of his damage on the deep outs. Thats atypical.

    Theres a growing and well earned narrative that the Steelers play a ton of zone. And that is true. And for some games this season they played almost entire games in zone. And Collinsworth helped that storyline along early, probably served up from his PFF toadies. But this particular game, they did play a lot of man. A lot by league standards anyways. Around 45% man. I’d certainly call that counter to tendency.

    I dont remember exactly how man big plays there were. 10 or 12. Those accounted for over 300 yards. The rest, he/they didnt do much. But he sure made the deadly most of those 10-12. Maybe not ‘the most’. The most wouldve put touchdowns on the board.

  • Steeler Nation!

    Getting juked is one thing. It’s gonna happen in space from time to time. Arm tackling is bush league. Lucky to get him down on that one. Won’t usually happen. Walking is unacceptable. He’s hoping he doesn’t have to make a play.

  • GravityWon

    Not exactly. I recall at least one place kicker and possibly a punter who were more apprehensive about tackling.

  • GravityWon

    They may need to bench him before he takes it seriously. That probably won’t happen unless Cam Sutton shows a lot of promise

  • capehouse

    So you’re saying Haden is better for missing the tackle than Burns is for tackling him with his arms?

  • capehouse

    Haden was defending a go route. I’m talking about an out and up like Burns faced. When the WR cuts to the outside the CB is always trailing, so how do you reroute to inside help? It seems impossible. You’ll always be keeping the WR between you and the sideline.

  • Steeler Nation!

    Are you saying one is better than the other based off of ONE play? Burns looked like he wanted no part of making any kind of bodily contact with the ball carrier. His technique was bad, period. He didn’t look as bad on some of the others. Hopefully he improves, and can become a consistently decent tackler in time. He sure isn’t there yet.

  • Uncle Rico.

    In C2 you try to deny any outside release by playing within 3 yards of the LOS and with outside leverage (see Haden). By doing this the receiver has to take an inside release. This is important because an outside release immediately puts the safety in conflict. He has to immediately widen, which opens up the middle of the field. If it’s Tampa 2, it’s not as big of a deal, because you have a middle hole defender and the safeties are already widened. But it’s not. It’s C2.

    In C2 that is where you start, by denying any outside release. However, (and this is where you seem to be getting lost) if you do end up giving up an outside release, you now have man coverage on him. You no longer have the flat zone. He’s your man. Period.

    He was playing too far off to dictate release. That’s his first mistake. And then when the receiver does get a very clean release outside, he stayed in zone coverage and didn’t convert it to man like he’s suppose to. That was his last mistake.

  • Like I said a bit nit picky

  • More little brother syndrome…

  • capehouse

    So in every single C2 play in the history of football the CBs are always up to the LOS? I just feel like Burns is lining up where he’s supposed to. But maybe that’s where I’m going wrong.

  • capehouse

    I’m comparing one play to the other. Right? Not talking who’s a better player.

  • capehouse

    Oh and by the way just realized the plays are back-to-back lol. And really I’m talking about Abdullah and his cutting ability. He jukes both Burns and Haden on consecutive plays. That’s why Burns almost missed him and Haden did.

  • Mark

    My challenges with Artie.
    1. Not physical enough in run support or jamming WR
    2. Misses way too many coverages by looking in the backfield and not playing the WR
    3. Just doesn’t give the appearance of a willing blitzer, always looks likes he’s making a business decision.

  • Mark

    Agree, however, I think the more he sees Haden on tape is going to force him to play tougher in run support and coverage. I also, feel that Cam Sutton will become a better corner than Artie. We can’t see their hearts but Cam, Hilton, and Haden play a tough CB position.

  • Mark

    Those film sessions are brutal from what I’ve heard and I’m sure the other DB’s are calling him out. He acts like Deion without the interceptions.

  • Mark

    I don’t feel that Mitchell wasn’t reading his keys there wasn’t receiver in his area so he should’ve provided more help to Artie.

  • Joeybaggadonuts

    Not sure he was burn burned…1 was a scramble, 1 was Cover 2 and Stafford hit the hole. We can agree he has not an ounce of Jack Tatum in him. The arrow is still pointing up. He needs to focus on every play.

  • Joeybaggadonuts

    Garo Yepremian?

  • Joeybaggadonuts

    They usually bust balls and institute fines to go toward the annual team party

  • Uncle Rico.

    Well, I mean , yeah, ideally/properly anyway. You don’t want to always tip your coverage presnap, so it can be looser at times. But it remains, forcing an inside release is critical to the inherent design of Cover 2. It’s probably the single most important aspect. Without it, it unravels. If this was C3, or C4, or even C1 or T2, no big deal, he is where he’s suppose to be, ish. In C2, no. You jam/reroute inside and drop at a 45 about 10-12 yards deep toward the sideline. Even at that depth, if he just widens toward the sideline he would be at his drop spot and the receiver would have to run inside him.

    The weak spots in C2 are the deep outside and between the safeties. If he allows an outside release, and he obviously did, he puts both those weak spots at greater risk, the deep out and between the safeties ( because that safety has to widen, stretching that middle hole.) To help correct that mistake of allowing an outside release, that CB has to abandon his zone and man cover that guy he let get outside. That compromises another spot in the coverage, the flat he would have to abandon. So, yes, forcing an inside release is that important in C2. And the best way to achieve that is by playing within 3 yards of the receiver presnap with outside leverage.

  • Uncle Rico.

    He starts booking to the sideline as soon as he sees Jones get outside of Burns. The reason forcing an inside release is imperative in C2 is because that deep out is a weak point. Like I said, Mitchell is playing about 5-6 yards deeper than typical (of other teams). But that does seem to be by design. The SS plays at a proper depth, and when Davis is single high or Mitchell is out, they play that safety at that depth. So it’s not just Mitchell getting too deep. I mean, he is, but imo this is how Butler wants it. Not exactly sure why. Helps disguise coverage maybe, with staggered depths, gets the SS close to the box and FS safeguards giving up TDs. Dunno. Anyways, at a proper depth maybe he gets there in time to break it up. But that is still 100% on Burns.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Always appreciate your input, especially on secondary stuff, Rico.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Which is a bad thing.

  • Uncle Rico.

    Thank you.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    what else is new.

  • Steeler Nation!

    I get it. You’re talking about 2 plays and I was referring to Burns’ body of work. He’s bad against the run at this point, even by CB standards. If walking during the play is nitpicky, I want to play, I want to play HPKs team.

  • will


  • capehouse

    50 secs left in the 2nd qtr of the Detroit game. Lions get a 34 yard pass down the right sideline over Joe Haden and before Mitchell could get there in a C2. Joe Haden lines up 9 yards back from the WR. It’s C2 It’s the same thing Burns did which is pretty much the basis of your argument against him.

  • Uncle Rico.

    That was and odd look they used a few times last week. Show C3, then roll into a funky C2 at the snap. Used it when the Lions would go 2×2. Mitchell would roll over the top on one side, and Hilton actually drops back as the other deep half safety. But it’s C2-Man, not zone. I brought this play up, and one other in the Haden thread. He is responsible for giving up that completion, but not for the same reasons as above.

    On one side, Burns has no-help man coverage on the outside. Hilton isn’t playing halves the same as Mitchell. He’s actually bracketing the #2 hi/lo with Watt. On the other side, Gay rolls over the #2 in off coverage. Haden is off too, since they were selling C3 presnap. And Mitchell splits the diff playing over top of both. Sometimes in off man coverage, Haden likes to use a shuffle technique. And normally Haden is outstanding at this in pinning the WR to the sideline, and having a good sense of feel for where the receiver is because his eyes are looking back for the ball. But here, and this illustrates the risk of using this technique, he lost sense of where he was and where the receiver was.

    As I’ve mentioned, they are playing Mitchell about 5 yards deeper than most teams . They probably won’t give up too many touchdowns playing him that deep. But unless they’re facing a rag-armed QB, he’s likely never going to quite get there in time to break up too many of those deep outs either. Haden was at fault on that play. But that was C2-Man, not C2-Zone. Different techniques, different responsibilities.

  • Cavallonator

    Would be sweet to see him start to take advantage of it and get some turnovers that equal points. Just always blows my mind when he is so far back and a quick dink and dunk gets a first down.

    Also – May be it is lack of knowledge, but does he really get “lost” in coverage as much as people say? Listen to a couple Podcasts that absolutely roast him for the just being totally lost.