Day-three of Pittsburgh Steelers training camp is essentially day-one as the team will put the pads on for the first time this year Sunday. One player who has reportedly performed well so far during the team’s first two practices without pads is second-year cornerback Artie Burns and while head coach Mike Tomlin has seemingly been impressed with last year’s first-round selection out of Miami, he’s ready to see if the young cornerback can continue his progression on when real football is played.
“He’s done good things, a lot of guys have done good things, but it really means very little until we put the pads on,” Tomlin said of Burns play during the first two practices when asked about him following Saturday’s session at Greater Latrobe High School.
Burns reportedly has been glued to Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown during the team’s first two practices and that iron sharpening iron process has been by design, according to Tomlin.
“That’s prescribed by me,” Tomlin said Saturday of the Burns-Brown play-by-play practice battles that took place on Friday and Saturday. “I’m just interested in creating a good environment, one that’s geared towards competition. Those two guys like to compete. I think it’s contagious, I think it turns others on, it helps cultivate the environment.”
Burns indicated on Saturday that he’s enjoying the process of training camp so far and especially when it comes to covering Brown, who is arguably the league’s top wide receiver right now.
“It feels pretty good being back at it,” Burns said, according to Will Graves of the Associated Press. “Being a way for a month, just to get back to training. Looking forward to the rest of camp. I’m going to try and follow him as much as I can. I want to be the best, so I need to guard him to be the best. It’s something I’m looking forward to.”
Burns’ second training camp with the Steelers is certainly going much better than his first one did. Last year, the young cornerback got off to a very slow start at Latrobe because of a nagging quad injury that immediately thwarted his development. When he did finally start seeing the field, Brown reportedly had his way with him more times than not during practices.
“I only practiced like four times in the last training camp,” Burns said. “Training camp is the most important part of the season, getting your groove right going into the season, learning your plays, learning your team and learning the whole system.”
With the emphasis this offseason being placed on the Steelers playing more man-to-man and press coverage, Burns made sure to let everyone know that that style of coverage plays right into his strengths.
“That was something I did coming out of college at U-M, Burns said. “That was something they had me do and that is just something that transferred over to here. It’s something I really want to keep working on, it’s one of the best parts of my game.”
Burns finished his rookie season with three interceptions and that tied him for the team lead in that statistical category with linebacker Ryan Shazier. He obviously hopes to increase his splash play totals during his second season in the league.
“You know turnovers win games,” Burns said. “We can’t always rely on the offense to go out and win the game for us. We need to step up and win the game sometimes, too. Turnovers, strip fumbles, interceptions you know all of that, everything counts. We need to turn that into touchdowns.”