Film Room: Artie Burns’ Game Not Yet Complete

We’ve had quite the year looking at Artie Burns. Some of the conclusions were pretty tough, some of it very complimentary. Overall, there’s no question Burns is having a much better year than probably most of us anticipated.

The coaching staff deserve credit to. They’ve help simplified the scheme for him and doing what he’s comfortable with, like all competent teams should do. They’ve asked him to play a lot of press, stopped moving him around and use leverage to dictate the receiver’s route tree.

But when things get a little more complicated, and Burns has to make reads and keep his head on a swivel, he is running into problems. It’s been an issue during the year so let’s take a look at a few examples.

The first one comes on the defensive collapse against the New England Patriots, which we broke down during the week. We had a little trouble figuring out exactly who was at fault on Rob Gronkowski’s long touchdown but it was obvious Burns was late to react to the route tree.

Burns begins to bite on the #1 receiver making his in cut even though #2 is working vertical. Carnell Lake says it was still Robert Golden’s fault on the play, and we’ll take him at his word, but it doesn’t change the fact Burns was late to read 2 to 1 and carry vertical.


It happened again Sunday. Mike Mitchell’s end zone breakup seemed to stem from the same problem. Steelers are in Cover 3 with Burns at his typical right corner spot against a 3×1 look.

#1 and #2 cut in and Burns begins to bite on the underneath route, instead of passing it off to the linebacker and looking for anything vertical by #3. It’s a route concept the Ravens have shown a lot too, the two dig routes with a vertical seam threat, as we pointed out in our scouting report last week.

#3 breaks on a corner route and into Burns’ deep third. But Mitchell shows excellent range and ball skills, taking the proper angle and playing it at the catch point, as Dave Bryan pointed out last night.

Finally, maybe the most difficult to judge but another example. Cover 3 for the Steelers with Burns as the backside player this time, isolated on the X receiver.

As #1 settles on a quick hitch, Burns doesn’t look to get depth and for anything coming across the field. #1 going short is an alert for a crossing pattern coming across the field. Mitchell has a lot of responsibility in that but with three potential vertical routes to his side, he’s got a lot to deal with.

Burns isn’t going to be solely responsible for anything but he needs to help squeeze and discourage the throw. He can still rally on #1 short and Ryan Shazier is serving as the overhang defender to his side. It’s not like Burns has responsibility for the flats.

You could argue that Burns watched Joe Flacco get rid of the ball and didn’t need to try to get depth, but to me, there’s enough time to realize he needs to get depth and looking across the field.

Burns has had a good year and his progress is absolutely an encouraging sign going forward. But as you’d expect, he’s not perfect, and offenses who want to make him think and read could exploit him.

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