Tomlin ‘Amazed’ By Artie Burns’ Balance Of Work And Life As Young Caretaker

For the Pittsburgh Steelers, it is critical that they consistently have second-year cornerback Artie Burns out there on the field for them, a constant presence in the process of what they are trying to build. But that is not the only responsibility he has in his young life, as those who know his background are aware.

At 20 years old, Burns dealt with the sudden passing of his mother during his final collegiate season in Miami, and part of his decision to declare for the draft as an underclassman was because he felt the responsibility to take care of his two younger siblings.

He also already had one child with his girlfriend, and has since had another. He is responsible for four minors now in his household in the Pittsburgh area. And the manner in which he has had to—and been able to—balance this tumultuous work-life dynamic is why he was honored this year with the Ed Block Courage Award.

Head Coach Mike Tomlin was the one who presented him the award, and he let it be known just what he thinks about the young man. “I am continually amazed at how he handles it all”, he told the gathered audience. “I have two teenage sons but I am 45 years old. To watch him balance the responsibility of being a guardian for his brothers, and support them the way he does at their high school events and football games and things, is impressive”.

That’s right. He’s not just serving as the breadwinner of the household, but he has also taken on parental responsibilities for his two younger siblings, both in their teens. Teresa Varley in an article on the team’s website mentioned one example of an event that Burns passed over to be there for his brother, Thomas, on senior night for his high school.

“That senior night, everybody was going to have their parents there” Burns said. “He didn’t have his parents there. He knows I am always there for him, from the time we were little. For me to be there for those moments is important. You only experience things like that once, and I wanted to be there for him”.

He created a program named after his mother, Dana’s Angels, that aims to help grieving children who have lost parents “by lifting their spirits through a dinner at the holidays”. It is worth remembering that Burns himself is just a 22-year-old man, only two years removed from the loss of his mother, while his father in in prison.

I think anybody who has lost somebody in their lives, particularly in an unexpected way, can empathize with what he is going through, and share in the awe of how he has been able to handle it. While it’s ultimately not a choice—you simply have to do it—it is, as Tomlin said, impressive all the same.

“My mom, I wish she was here to see everything, be a part of everything”, he said “When I had my second son, I wish she would have been there. She met A.J. and saw him, but she never got to see my second son. I really missed on that opportunity. I wish she was there to see that, and a lot more”.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • Cwallace

    You go son.!!. This article made my day with a few tears. Thanks mr Marczi.

  • Stairway7

    His mother must have been a strong and wonderful woman to raise a fine young man like this.

  • Milton Farfara

    Aaannnndd queue the doom and gloom posters who will try to overshadow this fine young man’s high character with overreaction to his speeding ticket warrant. Keep it up young man you’re a great role model to some of today’s youth.

  • Darth Blount 47

    It is part of what can make Pittsburgh a special place. The Steelers don’t just draft players to play for the team, they draft people to play for the community. It warms my heart to see and hear the stories of young men who come in here and really handle things the right way. The U sometimes get a rap for churning out “thugs.” And they have, just like other places have. But Artie Burns seems like a good young guy. It’s not too hard to see why Tomlin fell pretty hard for the kid from the get. And why he was a natural backup plan in the draft to WJ III.

    I won’t speak like I know Artie personally. But the team really does seem to like what they have. The youth movement in Pittsburgh is setting this team up for the next decade. Between Hargrave and Conner and JuJu and Burns and Sutton and Davis and Watt and the rest… the future is bright both on the field and off. The stark contrast between the Steelers and the Bungles just for example, is so glaring and significant, that I wonder if people realize how lucky we are to be fans of the greatest organization in football history.

  • Treina Garris

    Congrats Artie on receiving the award and for being a wonderful stand up man! Your mother is definitely proud and smiling upon you! Your brothers will one day appreciate and thank God for you for being there for them!

  • pittfan

    High character man. Tomlin is too. Say what you will about his coaching (which matters little) he attracts high character guys.
    Great example

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    Being a parent is one of the toughest, yet rewarding jobs there is. Salute, Young Burns!

  • Luke Shabro

    Say what you will about Artie’s reactions on the field at times (he’s still a damn good and developing corner) but he’s already more mature than Martavis at 22 Years Old. We really have a good young core coming together

  • Cwallace

    I’m am so rooting for this kid to be a great Steeler because he’s got the integrity of a winner. im sure the Steelers would be honored to be a part of this young mans journey through life. I have a backstory of my own thats got me crying as im texting that puts this in a more personal perspective and its great because last year as im watching him play i was thinking how manly this kid is taking care of his siblings while playing for a cb starved iconic franchise that absolutely needs him to be good and not looking to bad. Good stuff. .good kid. Go STEELERS!

  • pittfan

    You got that right!!!

  • SwagDaddy330

    wow. just wow. Hats off, Artie.

  • Cwallace

    Yessir and amen!!

  • kev4heels

    agreed. fine young man right there.

  • Having just lost a brother who left behind 3 young daughters, i love seeing stories like this about people stepping up in such a big way when needed.

  • Mark

    His on field play sometimes gives me grief but he is a stand up young man making it happen as a father to 4 young men learning what is like to take care of a family. Praise GOD for Artie Burns!!

  • Conserv_58

    Artie’s story makes Martavis’ social media temper tantrum look even more infantile. Artie’s siblings are very lucky to have such a selfless and caring person for a brother.

  • Joeybaggadonuts

    Great story…We need more of them!