There is no question that the Pittsburgh Steelers defense is off to a fast start to begin the season. A big reason for the success of the Steelers at this juncture has been the play of their secondary, which has been noted for years as being one of their biggest weaknesses. One of the key figures in the Steelers secondary is second year cornerback, Artie Burns Jr. After a successful rookie campaign, which saw Burns start 9 of the Steelers 16 regular season games and help the Steelers all the way to AFC Championship game, Burns no doubt is looking to elevate his game to the next level. After a strong preseason, which included well-documented one-on-one battles will teammate and All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown, Burns displayed a newfound confidence and maturity has helped him in the two games he has played this season. His performance against the Minnesota Vikings was indicative of his maturation and how much he has evolved since last season.
Clip 1: Play Recognition on Switch routes
This particular sequence fooled Artie Burns in his first game against Cleveland Browns, but on this occasion, Burns was not to be fooled again. This particular play has several activities taking place. Vikings receiver #19 is seen running the corner route; in the same sequence, receiver #14 is running the post route inside. The tendency for a cornerback in this case would be to take the receiver running the post route, as he is seemingly the bigger threat. Yet in such a case where a first down is needed, the ball is more than likely going to the receiver running the corner route as it is a much safer play. Notice in this play how at first, Burns almost follows Vikings receiver #14; such action would have resulted in a first down. Yet in this case, Burns quickly notices Vikings receiver #19 running the corner route and immediately recognizes where the ball is going; as a result, he is able to make the pass deflection.
Clip 2: Burns makes stop on the Fake End-around
This play is exemplary of how pressure up front can help the secondary unit. From the snap, the Steelers are aggressive in their pass rush on Vikings quarterback Case Keenum. Artie Burns is seen on the top near the Vikings sidelines tracking the play. As the play unfolds, he recognizes where the ball is going and makes his away toward the ball carrier. What makes this play impressive, is the manner in which he is able to evade the block attempt from the Vikings offensive lineman, and finish the play. As much credit Burns is given for making the stop, it was the pass rush efforts of Steelers defensive tackle Javon Hargrave that also made this play happen.
Clip 3: Pass Breakup on Vikings Receiver
Artie Burns was faced with a challenging task covering 6’2 215 lbs receiver Laquon Treadwell. At points in this game, Treadwell’s size and speed did give Burns some issues, as he was called on a few occasions for pass interference. Even with this noted, Treadwell only ended up with 33 receiving yards. In this sequence, Burns is seen in press man coverage and has Treadwell completely blanketed. Simply, Keenum has a little room to throw as Burns is able to break up the pass. As the defensive secondary has shifted to playing more one-on-one, Burns has shown in this play as he has in the past, that his is capable of going step-for-step against many of the receivers in the NFL.
As it stands, the Steelers defense is ranked 5th in the NFL in passing yards allowed. This can be noted as an indication that the defensive secondary has the proper personnel and the right players to help this defense become one of the best in the league. In his short pro career, Artie Burns has become a key piece to the equation which will hopefully lead to further success as the season goes on.