The Pittsburgh Steelers certainly seem to feel as though they have seen enough from Artie Burns, their 2016 first-round draft pick. And as it turns out, the feeling is mutual. Following the season finale on Sunday, the Miami product did not shy away from telling reporters that his intention is to seek other opportunities with the 31 teams he hasn’t yet played for.
Considered a reach, yet a need, the year he was drafted, Burns was a true junior coming into the NFL in 2016, which proved to be his best season. He began the year as a dime defender, quickly transitioned into the nickel defender on the boundary, and by roughly midseason was a full-time starter, finishing the season with three interceptions.
The defense catered to him heavily, however, covering for him, and as they took the training wheels off him over the next two years, the rest of his wheels came off as well. He was demoted two games into the 2018 season, benched after six, and he hardly played this past year.
Burns was given the opportunity to start one game due to injury with Steven Nelson missing, and he did a solid enough job. But he ended up finishing out his fourth season in the league on a stretch of six games in which he was a healthy scratch. That was because rookie cornerback Justin Layne had emerged as the better option for special teams, with Mike Hilton and Cameron Sutton serving as defensive depth.
When reporters asked Burns after the loss to the Baltimore Ravens if he was ready to move on from the Steelers in 2020, he told them “yes”, according to Kevin Gorman of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “It’s what I want to do”.
In writing this, of course, I know what the overwhelming response is going to be—a variety of ways of expressing the sentiment captured in the phrase, ‘good riddance’. It’s unfortunate, but not entirely unfair, though perhaps he would argue that he wasn’t given the opportunity to rebound this year when they went out and signed Nelson.
On his status as a first-round bust, he told reporters, “it doesn’t really matter. All that matters is the future, what I’m going to do for the next team that takes me”.
For what it’s worth, I do hope that he finds an opportunity with another team to have a role in their secondary, and I hope that he is able to find success professionally. All indications have consistently pointed to him being a good kid, and I’m sure at least most of us are familiar with his backstory.
“I’m ready to compete and grind and win”, he said. Here’s to hoping he signs the biggest contract possible and plays every snap to maximize any potential compensatory pick the Steelers might be able to get out of losing him. Former first-round picks often are afforded opportunities others would not be given.