Steelers must give this March Madness star a call during the NFL Draft

While the switch from basketball to football isn't easy, the Steelers need to consider adding this college star to their offseason roster
North Carolina State Wolfpack forward DJ Burns Jr. (30)
North Carolina State Wolfpack forward DJ Burns Jr. (30) / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

While my focus has been on the Steelers offseason, like most sports fans, I naturally keep my eye on the annual March Madness basketball tournament. My bracket was busted early (I guess I should stick to football), but that hasn’t stopped me from keying in on a specific player. N.C. State has been an underdog in this tournament, and their center DJ Burns has captured the attention of a lot of the country.

As of this writing, N.C. State is still alive and set to battle Purdue in the final four. Burns has been nothing short of fantastic during this stint. Unfortunately, he is an older player and doesn’t have the typical body size to thrive in the NBA, but one has to wonder if he could carve out a career in the NFL.

What sticks out on tape is Burns's footwork and speed. Despite being listed at 6’9 and 275 pounds, he is nimble on the court. Basketball in general is a very cardio-intensive sport, so I don’t doubt that Burns is a good athlete for his size. With his odds of playing in the NBA slim, the Steelers should be giving Burns a call during the draft.

Why the Steelers should be in on Burns

To be clear, it would be a long road to go from a basketball center to an NFL player. While it has happened before, and even very successfully (I’m looking at you Antonio Gates), Burns would need to completely transform himself as a player.

Burns has come out and spoken against the recent rumors about his NFL transition. He says that basketball is his focus right now, and getting to the NBA is his goal. He did note that long-term he would be open to a move to the NFL, but he wants to try his hand at his first love. This tracks and the last thing you would want to hear Burns saying right now is I want to switch sports while on this Cinderella run.

The fact of the matter is, basketball is one of the harder sports to crack into. There is a huge pool of talent every year that tries to make it, but with rosters so small, it makes it hard to crack the pro level. Europe is always an option, but that requires a big move and playing for smaller salaries.

If Burns has a change of heart after the basketball season wraps up, taking a shot on him for the Steelers makes sense. He would be far from a sure thing, and more than likely he wouldn’t pan out, but the same thing was said for former starting left tackle Alejandro Villanueva.

A receiver in school, he broke into the NFL late because of his service in the Army. The Eagles tried him out on the defensive line before the Steelers developed him as a tackle. He has a similar size as Burns and had to bulk up in order to play along the line.

While I wouldn’t burn a draft pick on Burns, I would be quick to call him after the draft wraps up. If he really wants to try his hand at the NBA minor league, I’d give him the summer with an open invite to join training camp/the practice squad once his time there wraps up.

Next. Steelers can't afford to stop in free agency ahead of the NFL Draft. Steelers can't afford to stop in free agency ahead of the NFL Draft. dark

He would need to add some weight, likely 30-40 pounds at least, but the potential is there. Assuming you don’t have to give up anything significant to get him, I think the Steelers would be wise to gauge his interest in switching sports. He has the frame and athleticism to be something at tackle eventually.