PITTSBURGH — Steelers coach Mike Tomlin let Antonio Brown know who was ready for him.
“Two-five,” Tomlin said to Brown as the star receiver stretched before Friday’s rain-soaked training camp opener.
And Brown replied, “Hopefully.”
Sure, No. 25, Artie Burns, lost a few downfield plays to Brown, as is customary for anyone guarding him. But early indications are Burns, last year’s first-round pick, is better equipped to pester Brown in Year 2.
Burns had to refine his game as a rookie, but he’s never been afraid to cover Brown. He does it every practice. And he’s fearless about it. The Steelers love that about him. The next step is anticipating with footwork, technique and discipline, areas in which Burns is improving.
Take Friday’s training camp opener. Brown got past Burns twice early in the session, including on a deep ball down the sideline. But Burns battled back with a pass breakup, and he also was in on a physical play involving safety Sean Davis over the middle that knocked Brown down and knocked the ball loose.
Tomlin won’t give Burns props for simply battling against Brown. That’s what first-round picks should do, Tomlin says. But Burns is looking to turn that fearlessness into turnovers soon enough.
Some other observations from the first day of camp, which did not include pads.
* Running back James Conner got plenty of touches in his first NFL practice and ran with a finisher’s mentality. Running backs are difficult to evaluate without pads, but Conner looked eager to produce. On one carry,…
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