Burns was the first cornerback chosen in the first round by General Manager Kevin Colbert, and the first by the Steelers since Chad Scott in 1997.
It appeared the Steelers had been frustrated in their search, but quickly after the Bengals drafted cornerback William Jackson -- a known Mike Tomlin favorite from the Houston pro day -- the Steelers stepped up and drafted Burns, a long-armed (33 1/4-inch) corner who grabbed an ACC-leading six interceptions last season, a season marked by tragedy with the death of his mother, Dana Smith.
A former national hurdling champion at Miami Northwestern High School, Burns also ran track at Miami and set an American junior record with a 7.68-second 60-meter hurdle.
On the football field, Burns played in 11 games as a freshman cornerback and returned 10 kickoffs (26.1 avg.), and moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore in 2014.
Burns broke out last season at Miami by starting 12 games and intercepting six passes. However, the 20-year-old, whose father had been incarcerated for cocaine trafficking (has served 10 years of a 25-year sentence), lost his mother to a heart attack in late October and was left to raise his two younger brothers and infant son.
"Artie's a special kid," said Colbert. "He went through a tragedy, fought his way through that, came out the other side and had a solid year."
Colbert raved about Burns' character and then went on to plug the cornerback class this year and gave no indication the Bengals had thwarted the Steelers by drafting Jackson a pick earlier.
Tomlin said Burns "has a lot of growth potential. We're excited about the upside. He's a natural bump corner. ... He has elite speed, was a track man down there at Miami. We're just really excited about him in general. He's a good piece of clay to mold."
Burns' exact NFL Combine measurements were 5-11 7/8, 193 and he ran a 4.46 40. He had a vertical jump of 33 inches (pro day) and benched 225 pounds only seven times. He did run a stellar 6.96 3-cone time. Burns won't turn 21 until Sunday.
"A big birthday present," said Burns. "It's the team I wanted to go to, especially after meeting Mike Tomlin. He's one of the coolest coaches I met. The players really relate to him and they want to play for him. They've always been a great organization. They play tough on defense and that's something I pride myself on, too."
Burns said he tries to model his play after Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson, but also said he's been a fan of the Steelers.
"I've been watching the Steelers defense since I was young," he said. "I watched the whole Steelers team since I was young. I always idolized them as one of the top organizations in the NFL, year in and year out."