When the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Antonio Brown, they didn’t exactly know who he was going to turn out to be. It didn’t take all that long to find out though, and among those who found out the quickest was cornerback Ike Taylor, with whom he had many battles in practice, leading to frustration for both.
Brown takes most of his reps against Artie Burns now, and it’s been that way since the Steelers drafted the cornerback in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Right as a rookie, in training camp, even in OTAs, they threw him out there against the best in the business. It was ugly at first, but he has begun to win at least close to his share of the skirmishes.
You know it’s something that both of them value. It was pretty much the first thing that Brown mentioned when he spoke to reporters yesterday during the second day of OTAs. Teresa Varley asked him if it’s already competitive out on the field. “Always competitive, he said. “Me and Artie’s at it already”, beaming with the grin of a man back where he feels at home.
“It’s fun”, he said about going up against Burns. “Obviously we’re hometown friends. Competitors. It’s just one of those things—he’s like your brother. You just want to get the best of him, he wants to get the best of you, but at the end of the day it’s all love”.
Brown spent much of his adolescence growing up in the Miami era, as did Burns, though obviously they did not grow up together, as they’re several years apart in age. Brown is entering his ninth season, Burns his third. But the area is a prime region of producing football talent, and so they tend to share a bond.
You might recall that Burns dealt with an injury in training camp last year, and as a result Brown had to soak up reps against other cornerbacks. A lot of those reps came up against Ross Cockrell, which did not go over well for the former Steeler.
Burns suffered a leg injury in early August and missed few practices. By the second day going up against Cockrell, the young cornerback had to deal with much more than he bargained for. As Brown streaked by him for one 35-yard touchdown during practice, he turned to Burns standing watching on the sideline and told him, “We miss you! I need you out here! This is too easy!”
Cockrell ended up getting traded at the end of the preseason after the Steelers were able to sign Joe Haden. Meanwhile, Burns is entering his third season in the NFL, and the second as a full-time starter, having recently turned 23.
While many are down on him, there is still plenty of opportunity for him to grow. And what better way to grow than the compete with the best on a daily basis? That was the idea from the onset.