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Steelers

'We believe in Artie, man' – Steelers confident Burns can step in big game against Patriots

Chris Adamski
| Friday, Dec. 14, 2018, 5:03 p.m.
Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Artie Burns practices before an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018, in Cincinnati.
Gary Landers/AP
Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Artie Burns practices before an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018, in Cincinnati.

Artie Burns, as he has over his three seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, politely answered questions after practice Friday.

What made this week of practice so different, though, was that it was in which he had apparently re-gained his starting outside cornerback spot after he’d lost it two months earlier.

“It’s a long season,” Burns said with a smile. “If you guys (in the media) write a bad report, they won’t fire you guys right?”

Typically, no. And the Steelers didn’t fire Burns, either. They, of course, kept him on the 53-man roster.

They did, however, diminish his playing time, giving him only 11 defensive snaps over the past seven games.

That by all indications is changing for what is the Steelers’ biggest game of the season: Sunday against the New England Patriots. Burns has confirmed he’s been getting first-team reps this week.

“Artie, man, I’m happy for him,” veteran cornerback Joe Haden said. “He was able to keep his head all the way right in what he did, losing a starting spot, and he never wavered.

“I think he’s going to play very well.”

Though the Steelers’ actions suggested they’d lost faith in Burns when they elected to give veteran Coty Sensabaugh all of the playing time across from Haden as an outside corner, their actions this week – in what is annually a game they point to, and with their playoff lives on the line – prove just the opposite.

Steelers coaches have faith in Burns.

While in part it could be attributed to a gameplan thing because of Burns’ size and man coverage strengths (the Steelers also are replacing diminutive slot corner Mike Hilton with the more combative Cameron Sutton), it also is undeniable that coach Mike Tomlin, defensive coordinator Keith Butler or secondary coach wouldn’t do this if they didn’t feel comfortable Burns could handle the job.

Burns demurred when asked if he took his expended role this week that way. But when pressed, he was rescued by teammate T.J. Watt.

“We believe in Artie, man,” the eavesdropping outside linebacker said. “That’s not a question for him to answer. We believe in Artie.”

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Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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