Artie Burns is still just 24 years old, but he’s a veteran by NFL standards, having been in the league for three years already and having started for the bulk of that time—at least, on and off. He emerged into the starting lineup halfway through his rookie season but was benched in the first half of the year in 2018.
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ first-round pick in 2016 is now fighting for his football life in 2019, and doing everything he can to give himself the best opportunity to stick around, which starts with being accountable. And that means many things for Burns, including making the effort to gain a better understanding of everybody role in the defense and how he fits into it.
“I just did it on my own”, he told Kevin Gorman, perhaps referring to sitting in on coaches’ meetings this offseason. “It’s just me being accountable to myself, to make sure that I’m on my details. It’s helped me know what the guys around me should be doing and how they should be thinking. It all ties together. Playing corner, you feel like you’re on an island out there sometimes, but it all ties into one. It’s all 11 guys out there, and we have to be accountable to each other and ourselves”.
Burns was not a full-time football athlete until his junior, and final, season in college, splitting time as a track runner prior to that. He was not a full-time, every-down starter even in that year before he was drafted. So it’s not altogether surprising that he might not have had a grasp of the most minute details of the game.
That was quite the opposite for Cameron Sutton, who was a four-year man at Tennessee and came in with the reputation for priding himself on knowing what every other player on the defense was supposed to be doing on every play.
Now Burns is trying to gain that further understanding, which can only aid him in his efforts, even though he ultimately has to simply do a better job of covering his man most of the time.
As we have previously relayed, Burns did spend the majority of OTAs getting the opportunity to run with the first-team defense, because veteran Joe Haden was given a lot of that time off. He was playing over Sutton, as well as others such as Justin Layne.
But with Sutton and Layne, in addition to Haden, Steven Nelson, and Mike Hilton, Burns will find it difficult to make the roster. at a bare minimum, there is no disputing the fact that he will very much have to earn his spot this year, if he ends up with one, and only after securing a place on the team can he concern himself with getting back on the field.