Pittsburgh Steelers rookie cornerback Artie Burns will supposedly make his NFL debut Thursday night in the team’s 2016 preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers and because of that, it’s easy to make this year’s first round draft pick my selection for this game’s defensive spotlight player.
Burns, who missed quite a bit of training camp, as well as the team’s first three preseason games, due to a quad injury, should see extensive playing time Thursday night against the Panthers at one of the two outside cornerback positions. When he was healthy earlier in the offseason, Burns had several opportunities to cover Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown and while that’s one hell of a task, it’s very doubtful he’ll be asked to cover a player remotely close to his abilities Thursday night in Charlotte.
In addition to paying close attention to his cover skills both on and off the line of scrimmage Thursday night against the Panthers, I’m also looking forward to seeing how Burns plays against the run and how he handles blocking wide receivers on the outside. These are two areas that I saw him struggle in over the course of his last two seasons at Miami when reviewing his tape.
In addition to him possibly seeing extensive playing time on defense Thursday night, one would think that Burns will also be asked to play on special teams against the Panthers and specifically as a gunner on the punt team. One would think that his speed will benefit him in that area as long as he’s able to ward off the jammers who line up against him.
So, while several Steelers starters on both sides of the football will sit out the Thursday night preseason finale against the Panthers, at least we can look forward to seeing Burns make his NFL debut and assuming he does indeed play, one of us will recap his performance in a forthcoming Film Room post.