PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Pittsburgh Steelers rookie cornerback Artie Burns can’t wait to make his debut.
It has been a long time coming for the Steelers’ first-round pick, who was hampered by a nagging quad injury throughout most of training camp, causing him to miss the team’s first three preseason games.
Burns is healthy and more than ready for his first taste of the NFL during the Steelers’ preseason finale Thursday at Carolina.
“I’m most definitely excited,” Burns said. “Everybody’s been kind of waiting to see what I can do and I’ve been waiting to see how I’m going to do out there, so I’m ready.”
The Steelers selected Burns No. 25 overall, the first time the team took a cornerback in the opening round since Chad Scott in 1997. Burns, a former Miami standout, led the ACC with six interceptions last season.
He welcomes the lofty expectations that come with being a first-round pick.
“I’m just ready to go out there and show everybody what I’ve got,” Burns said. “I had a good week of practice. I feel real good, real healthy.”
Burns missed about three weeks with his quad injury before fully returning to practice last Wednesday. Burns said it was frustrating, but he remained patient, watching film, learning route concepts and studying formations behind the play while on the field during practice.
“I’m behind, but I don’t feel like I’m far behind because I was still able to get the mental part,” Burns said.
Burns also leaned heavily on teammate William Gay, a 10-year veteran at cornerback. Gay looks forward to watching Burns in action.
“I’m just excited to see him healthy and ready to go,” Gay said. “You always look forward to big things from a guy of his caliber. He’s just excited to prove to the locker room that he’s capable of helping out.”
Burns will have the first chance to prove himself on Thursday. He expects a heavy workload against the Panthers.
“I’m prepared for it,” Burns said. “Whatever they’re going to throw at me, I’m going to take it and run with it.”
Burns won’t likely be a starter at cornerback when the Steelers open the regular season, but he’s OK with that. Gay and Ross Cockrell will start on the outside and rookie second-round pick Sean Davis is expected to be the first-team slot cornerback.
Burns will be happy as long as he’s on the field.
“I want to play in every game,” Burns said. “Just being out there and getting these reps is enough for me. I feel like I can contribute a lot to the secondary, being a young guy with a lot of athleticism. I’m here to do whatever the team needs me to do.”
NOTES: The Steelers placed tight end Ladarius Green on the physically unable to perform list. Green, the Steelers’ biggest free agent signing in the offseason, underwent offseason ankle surgery and is ineligible to join the active roster until after Week 6 of the regular season. … Coach Mike Tomlin said linebacker Bud Dupree underwent an evaluation on Tuesday for a groin injury he has battled throughout training camp. Dupree, the Steelers’ 2015 first-round pick, practiced in a limited capacity recently, but hasn’t played in three preseason games. … Tomlin said he will hold out a number of veterans Thursday at Carolina.