Yesterday, we brought you a look at some of the highlights of Pittsburgh Steelers rookie of the year Sean Davis’ performance from Sunday against the Ravens. Today, we are going to take a look at several other rookies, starting with Artie Burns, the cornerback that they drafted in the first round.
As I noted yesterday, even Pro Football Focus has changed their tune with regards to the underclassman, who has exceeded the expectations that almost everybody had for his rookie season, which many anticipated would be somewhat of a redshirt year. He even battled injury in training camp along the way to ascend into the starting lineup by midseason and has a combined 15 interceptions and pass breakups.
That’s not to say by any means that he doesn’t still have his work cut out for him on his path toward being a shutdown corner, and we even took a look at some examples of that earlier this week. This film session will take a look at some of the highs as well as the lows.
Now the first play of the game was admittedly a low for him. Up at the line against Mike Wallace, the former Steelers receiver quickly got inside of Burns and around him. The last time that happened it went for 95, but this time Mike Mitchell made the tackle. Of course, both of them went on to miss tackles on the Ravens’ 44-yard reception to start their second drive.
Jumping ahead to the second quarter, I actually want to take a look at the special teams. You might recall early in the year—it might have even been back in the preseason, Burns was flagged for being offsides on a field goal attempt. I later argued that he just got a really good jump. He got a really good jump on the field goal attempt the Ravens botched, and I can’t help but wonder if he might have been able to block that one anyway.
The ensuing offensive drive didn’t last very long, so Burns was back on defense shortly after. Midway through the second, I thought he showed nice coverage on tight end/wide receiver Darren Waller over the middle of the field. Waller is the player whom Davis prevented from scoring a touchdown.
Toward the end of the half, Burns showed two things we’ve been needing to see from him consistently: recognition and tackling. After reading the throw coming to the back, he released the tight end upfield and made a strong tackle on the back that immediately stopped his forward momentum.
Heading now late into the third, it was Burns on Wallace again, this time playing well off on a second and 22. Wallace motioned in pre-snap to receive a screen pass, but Burns did and excellent job of working through Steve Smith—he ended up on the ground—and making the tackle for a gain of just a yard.
You honestly don’t see Smith on the ground too often in such situations. Of course, it looked like he watched for the pass too long before looking to block and Burns was already on him. He guessed he couldn’t go around him and still make the play, so the rookie played through him