I’m not sure how, I’m not sure why, but somehow, former Pittsburgh Steelers first-round draft pick Artie Burns managed to escape Pro Football Focus’ list of the biggest draft busts of the past five years—which is the period during which they began grading college players, so the timeline is not a coincidence.
The site recently posted a list of 10 players who have been selected during that time—noted as being biased toward players who have been in the league longer, given that players can take a step forward over the course of time—and the Miami product was not among those 10.
Fellow 2016 first-round cornerback Eli Apple, however, was. Yet Apple, who flamed out with the New York Giants, was traded to the New Orleans Saints, where he was somewhat able to revitalize his career and resume his starting role.
The only difference is that Burns was drafted in the 20s, and Apple was drafted 10th overall. In fact, all of the players who made the site’s list were selected within the top 10 picks, which obviously leads me to believe that their opinions about who actually qualifies as a bust is highly slanted toward how high the draft pick is.
Other players who made the list are quarterback Josh Rosen, the 10th-overall pick in 2018, followed by Mitchell Trubisky, the quarterback taken second in 2017. The next pick after that was defensive lineman Solomon Thomas. Later in the same class at nine was wide receiver John Ross, who was taken by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Leonard Floyd is also on the list, who was drafted one spot ahead of Apple, while a quadruplet of first-rounders from 2015 round things out: second-overall quarterback Marcus Mariota, edge Dante Fowler, wide receiver Kevin White, and lineman Ereck Flowers.
You know, looking over this list, and realizing that these are all top-10 picks—does that at all change your views on Burns and how significant a ‘miss’ it was to draft him? Granted, some of these players named are capable performers. Perhaps some wouldn’t even categorize all of them as busts.
That said, Burns was still a first-round pick, ostensibly one of the 32 best players coming out of college that year. He was far from it, losing his starting job early in his third season, never getting it back, and the Steelers showing no interest in retaining him beyond his rookie contract. By Pittsburgh’s standards, that’s certainly a bust. First-rounders are the nucleus of this roster, meant to spend their careers here.