Joe Burnett landed in just about the best place imaginable, as he was selected by the Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers with the 32nd pick in the fifth round. Burnett will compete with third-round pick Keenan Lewis, as well as veterans DeShea Townsend and Ike Taylor for immediate playing time at corner.
Burnett spoke about his chances for playing time against a higher draft pick—
"I don't think it hurts my chances at all because now that the draft is over, from the first slots to the seventh round, every guy has to come in and compete and work for a position," Burnett said. "I feel like it is a draft, but now we are at the moment where we have to go in and work for a job. It doesn't end right here. That's how I feel about it. I went in the fifth round [at] such-and-such pick, but I feel like I'm in the same boat as the third-round pick at cornerback. Me and him are competing now for the job. And I want the job."
Joe's first mission is to make the team, as a fifth-round pick is far from a lock to make almost any NFL roster, especially that of the defending Super Bowl champs.
"I see myself coming in to play a little bit of nickel, return punts and kicks and kickoff as well," the former Knights standout said. "Whatever it takes, I'm going to do it."
Still, Burnett's new position coach, Steelers secondary coach Ray Horton is excited about what "Smokin' Joe" can bring to "the new Titletown."
"It's like déjà vu all over again," Horton told reporters in a conference call. "This time we selected Joe Burnett from Central Florida. The first thing you will probably see is his stats. He is 5-9 ½, 198 pounds and he runs a 4.5 40 – you will look and say he is just a guy. When you look at him statistically, he is very productive. He is a return man – both kickoff and punt, and he gets interceptions. He is a guy who was a playmaker for them, and we expect him to be a playmaker for us in a multitude of ways. I am not going to compare him to Antwaan Randle El, but hopefully on the defensive side that is what he can be – a guy who can do a multitude of things for us. He is a guy who will come in and compete at corner in the nickel and as a return man. He will make his living at the start as a third-down type of corner and as a returner. After he grows into the position, if he can pick off the ball and return it for touchdowns like that he will be on the field quite a bit."
Here's what College Football News.com had to say about the selection–
While he'll see time in the secondary and will get a chance to win a corner job, his money will be made as a returner. A star from day one for the Knights, everyone knew he was a next-level punt returner early on yet still couldn't keep him from producing. Extremely strong, he benched 225 pounds 22 times at the Combine, and he was more than solid in the quickness and leaping drills. He's not good against bigger receivers and will likely work mostly in pure passing situations, but he'll make a team with his range and his special teams duties.
The former Knights star will have a great chance at earning a roster spot in one of the best football towns imaginable. An absolutely perfect fit.
Burnett Lands in Perfect Spot
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