The Pittsburgh Steelers, believe it or not, have had some great cornerbacks in their history. Two of them—Mel Blount and Rod Woodson—are even in the Hall of Fame. Ike Taylor was a modern great who never received the honor of being voted into the Pro Bowl, largely because of his poor hands, but at his peak he was as good in coverage as anybody in the league at the same time.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently talked to a couple of those past greats in order to gain some insight into Artie Burns, the cornerback who was supposed to be the next in line. A first-round pick in 2016, he emerged as a starter by the middle of his rookie year and recorded three interceptions, but he has yet to establish himself as a legitimate long-term starter.
And now he is fighting to get his job back. What is he thinking, and where does he need to be, physically and mentally?
“It really comes down to how bad you want to compete and whether the breaks go your way”, Blount told Ed Bouchette. “I’ve seen the best of the best get their lunch taken”. And that’s certainly true. Even in their best seasons, Darrelle Revis and Richard Sherman have still gotten burned on occasion.
Taylor, who was once benched early in his career by Bill Cowher before regaining his job and taking his game to another level, provided his own insight. “Artie just has to look at it as coach is trying to protect me right now”, he said. “It’s going to be on Artie from here on out. Either you go in the tank, whine and pout about it or look at it like, ‘this ain’t never going to happen again’”.
Burns has admitted that his confidence has been shaken, not only by the benching but by his recent performances, allowing three touchdowns over the past two games and several explosive plays in his coverage while not making many plays on the ball. So perhaps he needs this time to reset.
Bouchette notes that Blount was actually benched once upon a time as well, during the AFC championship game in the 1974 season. So far, Burns has only been rotated out for one game, though it will become two on Sunday.
Said Blount, getting benched is “not the worst thing that can happen to you, that’s for sure, getting pulled and putting someone else in. It gives that other person a chance to play and also gives you a chance to take a look from the sideline to see what’s going on. It could be a motivational thing”.
But he added that ultimately “it all depends on how Artie Burns reacts to it”. Whether it produces positive results or negative depends entirely about Burns and how he utilizes his time physically and mentally.