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Steelers select Artie Burns in the first round of 2016 NFL Draft

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The Steelers used the 25th pick of the first round to select Miami cornerback Artie Burns with their first pick of the 2016 NFL Draft.

PITTSBURGH - Many draft experts felt cornerback William Jackson III was the Steelers’ top target as their first pick in this year’s NFL draft, but we’ll never know.
 
In a flashback to the 2007 NFL Draft, when Pittsburgh had the fifteenth pick and were rumored to have wanted cornerback and Pittsburgh native Darrelle Revis, the Jets traded up to the fourteenth pick and plucked him one pick ahead of the Steelers.

If Jackson was who the Steelers wanted on Friday night, the Bengals foiled their plans and took the Houston defensive back one pick ahead of Pittsburgh with pick No. 24. However, the Steelers must have had a backup plan in place, because they wasted no time in taking defensive back Artie Burns from Miami about two minutes after the Bengals took Jackson.

“[Picking Burns] was a real easy decision. We felt we had a good chance to get a [quality] corner. We’re fortunate he made it to us. He was one of the top cornerbacks in this class,” Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said. “We’ll take him and mold him into what we need.”

Head coach Mike Tomlin also feels Burns can be molded into a solid contributor.

“We’re excited about his upside. He’s a natural bump corner, good with the ball down the field, and elite speed,” Tomlin said. “He ran track at Miami. He’s a good piece of clay to mold.”

Burns left Miami as a junior to enter this year’s NFL draft. He is 6-0, 197 lbs. He played three years for the Hurricanes, starting two. He had 36 tackles last season including 26 solo, five pass break-ups, and one fumble recovery.

“We were fortunate to find somebody with this kind of length, speed, and athleticism,” Colbert said. “He’s still young.”

He earned all-ACC second team honors in 2015 and led the conference in interceptions with six, including one against Pitt at Heinz Field late in the season. It was the most interceptions by a Hurricane since Sean Taylor had 10 in 2003. Colbert was at the game in person and watched Burns play.

Burns was faced with a tough situation this year and persevered, which did not go unnoticed by the Steelers. His mother passed away midway through the season and he has two younger siblings.

“His mother passed away during the season. He fought his way through that and came out the other side with a solid year,” Colbert said. “Artie is a special kid. I give the kid a lot of credit for what he did. It speaks volumes about his character.”

Colbert felt this year’s draft class was loaded with cornerbacks.

“This was as good a group of corners since I’ve been doing this. It just matched up with who we were picking,” Colbert said. “Artie is a special kid.”

The team selected Maryland safety Sean Davis in the second round.

The 6-1, 202-pound Davis was a three-year starter and four-year letterwinner for the Terps, finishing his college career with 305 total tackles. Davis played both cornerback and safety for Maryland.

"He has been really productive in the tackling department and he has a good eye for playing the ball in the passing game," said Steelers defensive backs coach Carnell Lake. "We really look forward to having him in the building. He is going to provide us with a lot of versatility and depth at a needed position, which is a safety for us.

Davis was the 58th player selected in the 2016 draft.

Pittsburgh added South Carolina State defensive tackle Javon Hargrave in the third round. Hargrave. 6-2, 305, is the two-time defensive player of the year in the MEAC.

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