Artie Burns On Lessons Learned From Covering AB: ‘Be Light On My Feet And Ready To Run’

When he first came into the league, it seemed almost comical, even audacious, that Pittsburgh Steelers first-round cornerback Artie Burns wanted to challenge wide receiver Antonio Brown, a perennial All-Pro talent and arguably the best wide receiver in the game, every day in practice.

And, from the start, it ended up looking comical, with the rookie clearly overmatched by the far more experienced and skilled technician. But nobody is laughing about it anymore a year later as Burns continues to match up with the moneyed playmaker.

Exactly a year to the date, I wrote about how Brown told reporters that Burns not only has to get himself better through practice against the wide receiver—he has the make the wide receiver—Brown—better as well. How in the world is Burns supposed to make Brown better?

Well, I don’t know exactly if that has happened—perhaps it has—but the friendly battle has certainly made Burns better. And he recently talked about what it’s like going against Brown in practice all the time and how it has helped his game.

About what he has learned about the position from covering the All-Pro, Burns said that it is about “being smart about how you attack somebody. That’s what I learned from him a lot. He’s real special. He’s real athletic. He teaches me how to be light on my feet and ready to run”.

That is, of course, exactly what Head Coach Mike Tomlin wants to see from both of his players, but especially from his young starting cornerback, who entered the lineup full-time in the second half of last season, and was able to record three interceptions with 13 passes defensed.

When a reporter recently asked about Burns not backing down from the challenge of going against an All-Pro, Tomlin shot back, “he better not”. He continued, “that’s the nature of the job. We took Artie in round one. If he was backing down from the challenge, I would be concerned”.

As time passes and they get more and more reps going up against one another, of course, it becomes less and less of a challenge for Burns. If he can run against Brown—no matter how many individual battles that he might lose to him in practice—it will only make him that much better for when he goes up against the wide receivers he will be facing on Sundays.

Being thrown into the fire, albeit in practice, by going up against Brown pretty much from day one, and in staying with that challenge day in and day out, overcoming the discouragement of being made to look bad so frequently early on, has helped to shape the young football player into the confident cornerback that he is now, who is looking to take the next step in his game in year two.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Jacob

    Carnell Lake recently said of Burns, “He’s being physical. He’s challenging Antonio Brown, arguably one of the best receivers in the league, in practice every day.” I am not sure if that meant he is giving AB fits, but if he is that’s a good sign.

  • WreckIess

    From what I’ve heard and the little I’ve seen, it’s been Burns on AB and Cockrell on Martavis almost all the time. Artie even followed AB into the slot in a couple plays. I’m probably reading way too far into this, but It makes me wonder if they’re preparing to go into the season with Burns as the top dog.

  • CoaltownSteeler

    I hope they don’t neglect to match him up on Bryant, too. They present entirely different physical and skillset matchups.

  • Conserv_58

    “Iron sharpens iron.”

    For Artie to have to go against AB every day in practice is the best case scenario for him and AB. It’s a win for those two and a win for the team.

  • Mark

    Iron sharpens iron and if Ross can stay with MB then things are looking up.

  • Steve Johnson

    I hoe Sutton is capable of overtaking Cockrell midseason. I like Ross, but from what we’ve seen in to years, he’s not that good in man-to-man coverage.

  • dany

    Interesting. Did Ike ever shadow receivers like that? Can’t recall him ever covering the slot

  • dany

    Team-wise, certainly would be a good thing for the steelers since Cockrell is getting paid next year, unless he drops off a cliff like Cortez or something

  • Trevor

    I know Ike always talked about shadowing the #1 all game, I think the main thing is that moving your top receiver to the slot seems like more of a recent trend, so I’m not sure how often he would have encountered that situation. That said, I can’t recall him lining up in the slot at any point specifically. Burns may be a more versatile prospect than Ike, I remember last year a big draft analyst (Mayock?) mentioned Burns after the draft as a hybrid slot/boundary corner when discussing the overall increase in prospects capable of playing more than one position, and it struck me as odd just because most called Burns a prototype outside corner.