Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

No. 1 Pick Burns Returns to Field

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

No. 1 Pick Burns Returns to Field

Article excerpt

The Steelers have seen very little of the two young cornerbacks they were counting on to rebuild and reestablish their secondary.

Senquez Golson, who missed his entire rookie season because of a torn labrum in his shoulder, made it through only three practices at training camp before sustaining a Lisfranc foot injury that is expected to keep him out till early December.

And Artie Burns, their No. 1 draft choice this year, participated in just a handful of practices at Saint Vincent College before injuring his quad the first week of training camp.

Unlike Golson, their No. 2 pick in 2015 who was being counted on as the team's nickel back, Burns is getting closer to making a return. He was a limited participant in practice Monday, the first time he has done any significant work with his teammates in nearly two weeks.

"I'm back," said Burns, the 25th overall selection in the NFL draft. "I'll ease my way back into it to get the cobwebs out."

Burns has some catching up to do before he can be a contributor. Right now, his lack of practice time has slowed his rookie development. But, barring injury or a setback, he will get a crash course in Keith Butler's defense to get up to speed and be part of their revamped secondary.

Burns said he has been taking "mental reps" while he has been out, sometimes standing in the defensive backfield at practice with secondary coach Carnell Lake.

"When we have practice, I'm standing back envisioning myself covering a receiver in that coverage, trying to read my keys, see what I got to do," Burns said. "I'm kind of behind but I can always catch up with extra work."

Then, he added, "It's kind of frustrating. I just keep working, stay level-headed and keep grinding."

The Steelers will find out how much the mental prep has worked when Burns returns to full practice, perhaps as early as today. However, Burns said he was unsure if he will play in the second preseason game Thursday night against the Philadelphia Eagles at Heinz Field.

"Depends on the guy," coach Mike Tomlin said."Depends on his ability to learn from others watching. We'll learn that about him as he comes off this thing. Some people are capable of watching and absorbing through watching others. Some have to physically take reps."

Vaughan gets more work

Backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, who injured his left hamstring while diving to the ground in the preseason opener against the Detroit Lions, is going to be out for "a number of weeks," according to Tomlin, and could miss the rest of the preseason.

Gradkowski's absence will give more playing time to first-year quarterback Dustin Vaughan, who was a long shot to make the team.

"It creates more reps for him in a practice-like setting or until Bruce gets back, but not only for him but for Landry [Jones]," Tomlin said. "Ben's reps aren't going to change, the number of reps he absorbs. …

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