One Step To Take: CB Artie Burns

Bringing back a s series I had a lot of fun exploring last offseason. Every player wants to improve, to elevate his game in all areas from one season to the next. Understanding that, we’re going to isolate just one area, one faction of a player’s game. The biggest area for improvement.

Artie Burns – Get Stronger At The Top Of Routes

I mean that literally and figuratively. Burns had an up-and-down rookie season but if you isolate him on tape, there was clear progression after the Miami Dolphins’ debacle, the worst game by maybe anyone on the Steelers’ defense this season.

When I talk about it figuratively, Burns has to react quicker at the top of the route. Not always the catch point, that isn’t the top, but where the receiver makes his break. Watch him at the bottom of the screen. Isn’t driving on the comeback right and gives up the completion. though he’s bailed out by a holding call.

He knows what the route is and watches the receiver come downhill. I guess he’s just assuming he has “good enough” coverage, the type of stuff you can get away with in college because QBs won’t test it. But in the NFL, and a strong-armed QB like Joe Flacco, it’s easy money.

Dez Bryant gave him a ton of problems and Burns even referenced that last week in an interview, saying he is taking jiu jitsu to combat bigger receivers like him. Here’s a great example at the top of your screen. Tossed away at the top of the route and Bryant makes an easy completion.

Yes, Bryant is clearly pushing off at the top. Welcome to the NFL, where receivers – especially the stars – get that kind of leeway. No point in complaining to your coach about it. Have to find a way to combat it.

It isn’t always out being out-muscled. Later in the Cowboys’ game, Bryant runs a dig. Burns is opening his hips the wrong way, cheating to protect the vertical throw down the sideline and he winds up giving the inside route. Pressure puts the throw off the mark, luckily.

To be fair, and to give proper context, I saw Burns get better as the year went on. He’s made plenty of mistakes but the important part is he’s shown the ability to learn from them. One example, Burns the RCB. Good plaster on the dig.

We could have gone in several directions with Burns, no surprise for a second year player still figuring things out. Getting better at crack/replace rules in the run game, becoming more versatile and the team more comfortable playing him on the left side, and using his hands better at the line of scrimmage. The list is lengthy. But he’ll be defined by what he does in coverage and any route is won or loss at its top. That’s where we put the focus.

If he can do that, there’s strong potential he surpasses Ross Cockrell as the best cover corner on the Steelers.

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