Four downs: Advanced metrics aren’t kind to Steelers’ Artie Burns |

Four downs: Advanced metrics aren’t kind to Steelers’ Artie Burns

Chris Adamski
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill catches a touchdown pass in front of the Steelers' Artie Burns during the fourth quarter Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018, at Heinz Field.

1. Why Artie?

There perhaps was too much that went wrong in last week’s loss to Kansas City to fault one man. But the Pittsburgh Steelers perhaps are pinning some of the blame for the secondary’s poor play on Artie Burns, at least judged by their decision to perhaps bench him. According to Pro Football Focus, Burns was targeted four times when in coverage against the Chiefs — and all four times, the pass was completed. Worse, the results were 85 yards and two touchdowns. For the season, PFF grades Burns 73rd among 103 rated NFL cornerbacks. The numbers aren’t much better that were calculated by Burns ranks 79th among NFL cornerbacks in passer rating allowed (150.0), 72nd in yards per target allowed (11.7) and 70th in yards per reception allowed (16.4).

With Burns in something of a “contract year” — a decision on his fifth-year option is due in the spring — the metrics are as bad of a sign as is the possible benching.

2. Quickest draw

We heard all week about Tyreek Hill’s blazing speed. De’Anthony Thomas is said to be fast, too, and the field was stocked with skill-position playmakers such as JuJu Smith-Schuster, Antonio Brown and Kareem Hunt. Even at tight end, Travis Kelce is known throughout the NFL as one of that position’s most dynamic athletes.

So what do you know, but one player was a faster ballcarrier than all of them in last week’s Steelers-Chiefs game. And it was Steelers tight end Jesse James.

James — who is often knocked (unfairly) as not being athletic enough in the passing game — was clocked at a top speed of 19.33 mph during the game by the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, a team high. It was just the latest superlative from the game for James, who caught all five of his targets for a career-high 138 yards and a touchdown in the defeat.

3. Conservative Ben?

It’s always foolish to make too much of anything through two games. But with that said, Ben Roethlisberger has been far less of a gunslinger this season. According to Next Gen Stats’ definition of quarterback Aggressiveness (the percentage of pass attempts in which there is a defender within 1 yard or less of the receiver at the time of completion or incompletion), it’s true: Roethlisberger is attempting passes into tight coverage almost half as often (10.9 percent of the time vs. 19.1 percent) as he did last season. Roethlisberger was among the top third in aggressiveness last season; thus far in 2018, he’s the third-least aggressive among starting quarterbacks.

4. How offensive

In no two-week stretch to open any other the NFL’s 99 seasons have more touchdowns been scored than the 174 the 32 teams combined for in Weeks 1 and 2 of this season. Overall scoring (1,556 points) is at the second-highest level it has ever been after two weeks. Ryan Fitzpatrick became just the third quarterback in league history to have consecutive 400-plus yard, four-touchdown passing games.

Gee, it’s almost as if making increasingly more styles of tackling illegal and taking away the hours of practice time (with pads) teams have to work on tackling have combined for a consequence of making it too easy on offenses.

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at [email protected] or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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