Friday, September 02, 2016

Steelers first-rounder Artie Burns takes step forward in NFL debut

Jeremy FowlerESPN Staff Writer 2, 2016

Artie Burns (
In his NFL debut, first-round pick Artie Burns looked like a player ready to compete for the third cornerback job with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The No. 25 overall pick shrugged off a few shaky moments early with multiple pass breakups Thursday against the Carolina Panthers, including a diving near-interception in the red zone. Burns failed to close a gap rush on a big Panthers rushing play in the first quarter, but he responded with active hands and the ability to break on routes.
The Panthers won the game 18-6, and their quarterback was Joe Webb. Many cornerbacks look good against Joe Webb. But after a quiet preseason with a quad injury, Burns created positive momentum this week. He also had two interceptions in Monday's practice.
If Burns offers at least functional NFL snaps, he gives the Steelers flexibility at corner opposite veterans William Gay and Ross Cockrell. That allows Pittsburgh to play rookie safety Sean Davis at his original spot or as a slot corner, where he spent time at during camp.
Draft night: The Steelers' first three draft picks in 2016 -- Burns, Davis and third-round defensive tackle Javon Hargrave -- played together with the first-team defense. The team sat most of its defensive starters, but these three held their own for the most part. More than once, Hargrave got an inside push while dealing with double teams. He has created consistent pressure throughout the preseason.
QB depth chart: Landry Jones got in and out with a 4-of-5 performance. Bryn Renner followed with a 5-of-11 performance for 39 yards. This was no laser show. New third-string quarterback Zach Mettenberger was not available after the team claimed him off waivers Wednesday. He needs more time to learn the playbook.
Maybe that dude could start: If outside linebacker Bud Dupree continues to be sidelined with a groin injury, Arthur Moats is more than capable of playing starter's snaps. Moats spent significant time in the Panthers' backfield with 1.5 sacks. Moats was one of several disruptive Steelers pass-rushers, including linebacker Anthony Chickillo and defensive end Ricardo Mathews, who might have to start if Cam Heyward's ankle injury doesn't heal. Matthews was considered a depth signing in free agency, but he looks refreshed in Pittsburgh.
Who got hurt? Mathews was taken to the locker room with a neck injury. Chickillo left the game with a foot injury. Rookie outside linebacker Travis Feeney left the game with a concussion. All players are being evaluated.
Just enough: Daryl Richardson entered the game with the chance to solidify the No. 3 running back spot. He didn't have a big night, but his 26-yard burst downfield was the Steelers' biggest offensive play on the night. Richardson rushed for 45 yards and a touchdown on his first nine carries.
Reasons to be concerned: Tight end Xavier Grimble was impressive at times in training camp, but he dropped a catchable pass for the second time this preseason. The Steelers need Grimble as the third tight end with sure hands while Ladarius Green is on the regular-season physically unable to perform list. Also, cornerback Doran Grant appeared to be in compromising positions in coverage for much of the night. He'll be a close roster call when the Steelers make final cuts Saturday by 4 p.m.

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