The Pittsburgh Steelers secondary has undergone a complete overhaul in just one offseason. Gone are Will Allen, Antwon Blake and Brandon Boykin, and inserted are Senquez Golson, Sean Davis and first round pick Artie Burns. The team lost a great deal of experience, but increased their athleticism and ball skills at the same time.
Throughout this process fans have been left wondering if these young players will be able to contribute early, or if the growing pains will be too painful to repair the the team's porous secondary. Either way you look at it, the spotlight will be shining brightly on the prized jewel of the team's draft class, Artie Burns.
Don't think there is pressure which accompanies being a team's top draft pick? Absolutely, and Burns is feeling a bit of that pressure, even in offseason workouts.
"They drafted me first-round," Burns told Jason Mackey of DKPittsburghSports.com. "They have high expectations for me. I have to learn fast. They're not just going to sit around and wait for me to grow."
Learning at their own pace isn't something rookies have as an option in their first year, especially when the rookie is a cornerback responsible for going head-to-head with Antonio Brown on a daily basis. As Mike Tomlin says, iron sharpens iron.
"He's the best in the league," Burns said. "It feels good. I get excited going against him every day. It's something I looked forward to when walking into the building. The more reps I took, the better, the more comfortable I felt out there."
Burns has had his share of failures going against Brown, but he isn't alone in that respect, but when you ask Burns where he struggles adjusting from college to the NFL, it isn't the physical aspect of playing corner. It is the mental side of the NFL which has been an issue.
"It's more mental," Burns said. "Learning to be in the right place at the right time. Seeing what the quarterback sees."
The simple reality of the Steelers and Burns is the team hopes they don't have to rely on him from Day 1. Although such a thought is intriguing, and would justify the team's top overall draft pick, but if the team can rely on William Gay, Ross Cockrell and Senquez Golson as their primary cornerbacks, it would allow Burns to get acclimated to the professional game without possibly being a detriment to the defense.
Burns will have to learn fast to make a difference in 2016, but the hope is the team doesn't have to need his services until he is both physically and mentally ready for it.