ShareThis Page
Breakfast with Benz

Tim Benz: For Steelers' Artie Burns, it's time for talent to prevail

| Wednesday, July 11, 2018, 6:42 a.m.
Steelers cornerback Artie Burns breaks up a pass intended for the Patriots' Brandin Cooks during the fourth quarter Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017, at Heinz Field.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Steelers cornerback Artie Burns breaks up a pass intended for the Patriots' Brandin Cooks during the fourth quarter Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017, at Heinz Field.

It's our second installment of "Stairway to Seven." Seven Steelers in seven days who could elevate the team to from what they were a year ago to a potential seventh Super Bowl championship.

Not the Killer B's. Not Cam Heyward. Not the standout offensive line. Guys who have more to give that can help close the gap between the Steelers and another title which has eluded them for a decade now.


Today's nominee is cornerback Artie Burns.

You can read about Joe Haden to get some of the defensive numbers as to why the corners need to be better.

But would it surprise you, as it did me, that Pro Football Focus gave Burns a better grade for his 2017 campaign than it did Haden?

The NFL analytics site graded Burns as the 43rd best corner in football . That's slightly above average. Haden was ranked at No. 51, in the average category.

In Jack-Johnson-esque fashion via the hockey world, this may be where the analytics and the eye test go in divergent directions.

When they were both healthy, I can't see how the argument can be made that Burns was better than Haden. Based on how he looked in the second half of the season, I also can't see how Burns could be called above average, given that the Steelers were considering benching the former first-round pick in favor of Cam Sutton heading into the Texans game on Christmas.

Whatever good tape and grades Burns acquired likely hinged on his play early in the season. For the first month or so, Burns looked like he had improved on a rookie season that showed progress toward the end of 2016.

Facing some ragged quarterbacks — and playing behind a front seven that seemed to have a better pass rush early in the season — aided the second year corner from Miami.

However, a midseason lull that started in late October with some rough games against the Lions, Colts and Titans left Steelers fans wondering if Burns' job could be in jeopardy come training camp if Sutton continues his upward trajectory.

It may not just be the fans wondering that. I bet the coaches are considering that prospect, too.

Like Haden, Burns had just one interception last year. That needs to change. Especially for a corner who takes a fair amount of chances.

As we have seen with Jarvis Jones and now Bud Dupree, after the third year, it's fair to start asking if a former first-round pick with this many questions is worth keeping around for his fifth-year option. In a perfect world, Burns will render that decision moot six months from now.

Much like his 2016 draft partner in crime, Sean Davis, potential needs to stop being potential. It needs to manifest into talent, production, and consistency if the Steelers' defense has any prayer of improving on last year's results.

That starts at corner. And that starts with Artie Burns.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me