There has been quite a bit of discussion recently about Pittsburgh Steelers second-year cornerback Artie Burns…I can’t imagine for the life of me why. He is only the first cornerback that the Steelers have drafted in the first round in well over a decade, for starters.
He only emerged as a starter during his rookie season and shared in the team lead during the regular season with three interceptions, also finishing second with 13 passes defensed while only being a full-time starter for a little more than half of the season. So yeah, I’m not really sure why people would be so interested in him.
The team’s website, for example, just recently had him sit down for an interview with Missi Matthews, which they’ve broken down in a couple of segments, and which Alex Kozora already talked about a bit yesterday by referencing his desire to practice Jiu Jitsu during the offseason to help his game.
One of the topics that he talked about was the opportunity to work under Carnell Lake, who I’m sure virtually everybody reading this will know quite well why that is of note. Lake was a former safety for the Steelers who also played some cornerback. A multiple-time Pro Bowler, he was highly respected as a player, and the Steelers gave him his first coaching opportunity at the pro level, where he has served as the defensive backs coach since the 2011 season.
Lake has been a frequent target of criticism over the course of the past few years, though he did help the Steelers finish with the fewest passing yards allowed as a defense in each of his first two seasons with the team. The numbers dipped substantially since then as key players left or retired, but last season was seen as the beginning of an upswing with Burns and others.
So what was it like working with Lake? “It was fun”, Burns told Matthews. “Coach Lake’s got a cool personality. He played a long time in the game. He really helped me a lot dissecting the film, what to look at, what to expect in certain situations”, he said.
Lake is uniquely qualified to speak toward breaking down film due to the fact that he has over the course of his playing career played all over the secondary, and was also a linebacker in college, so he is able to understand the game from the mindset of several different points of view.
Of course, as we also recently noted, both of the Steelers’ rookie starting defensive backs paid homage to one of the members of the old guard in the secondary, Mike Mitchell, who has been like a second coach on the field.
But the ultimate responsibility falls upon Lake to make sure that his players are up to speed, and he deserves credit for getting not one, but two rookies ready to start, one of which even played two different positions. His next task will be to help them continue to grow—and perhaps even break in another rookie or two for playing time this year.