I have no doubt that the past two years have been something of a whirlwind for the still-22-year-old Artie Burns, the second-year cornerback for the Pittsburgh Steelers taken in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. He dealt with tragedy in his final season in college, which in part prompted his decision to turn pro to support his family.
Entering the league as an underclassman while dealing with the trauma of losing a parent, while needing to support a child and two younger siblings—albeit with help from his grandparents—Burns had a lot on his plate early on. But a year into his career, he feels the growth, and the time passed.
“Yeah, I feel like it too”, he said about it sinking in that he is beyond a rookie in an interview with Missi Matthews for the team’s website. “It’s been so long. Guys that have been through the situation and stuff like that, have been through the whole process, they were like, ‘it’s gonna be a long year, a long first year, your rookie year’. But it’s been fun though”.
Much of the early part of the interview was reserved for reflection upon his rookie season and what he was able to accomplish in that span of time, in which he shared the experiences with fellow rookie defensive starters Sean Davis and Javon Hargrave.
“I was able to bond good with the guys on the team”, he said, looking back on his rookie year. “I think we made plays on the field. Growing on and off the field. Bonding with some of the older guys, coaches and stuff like that”.
Even though there was immense pressure on him from the outside, he said that he didn’t feel it himself. The Steelers were in need of cornerback help and many felt that they reached for a need when they took him. He was considered raw and not ready to contribute.
“I didn’t really feel the pressure”, he told Matthews. “I knew I had to come up here and do a job regardless of what pick I came in at. I just do it for myself. Be the best I can be. I didn’t really feel any pressure”.
No doubt one of the qualities that attracted the Steelers to Burns was his demeanor, as reflected in the answer above. It’s certainly not about overconfidence, but simply in maintaining the proper perspective. He has been through enough in his personal life to know how to appropriately compartmentalize the enormity of what happens on a football field.
There, there were some trials during his rookie season, and the worst for him was in training camp, specifically when he got hurt. “That part right there, that was probably the most difficult part for me”, he said. “That was my first training camp. I didn’t want to go in and get injured. When I got hurt, it kind of brought me down a bit, but I thought to myself, ‘you gotta take it easy and be ready for my time’”.