The Pittsburgh Steelers' top draft picks have established a solid base

If staying healthy was the Steelers' primary spring goal, getting Artie Burns and Sean Davis ready was the second goal.

PITTSBURGH -- With dark clouds approaching during the final practice of the spring for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Mike Tomlin stopped Chris Boswell's 12-kick workout and offered the young kicker the chance to make everyone happy with a make-it-and-go-home 51-yarder.

Boswell nailed it and everyone rejoiced.

Everyone but one.

"I was a little disappointed," said rookie defensive back Sean Davis. "I had a rough day yesterday and I wanted to make up for it today."

Davis wanted to continue a final practice that began with him intercepting a pass in the end zone during "seven shots," the seven-play series from the two-yard line which opens every Steelers practice.

Davis and fellow rookie Artie Burns were a part of the first group in giving the team a final spring peek at their top two draft picks.

"It felt good being out there with the first set of guys," said Burns. "I love seven shots. That's where all the pressure's at. That's where games come down to, Super Bowl games come down to. I just love the moment."

Davis, the second-rounder who's been learning safety and slot corner out of a big nickel alignment, also mentioned the big game when asked about his goals.

"My goal as of now," he said, "is to learn the playbook as fast as I can, both positions, and contribute any way possible, whether that's special teams, coming in as the nickel, starting safety, a cheerleader on the sideline. I'm down for whatever. We're trying to win the Super Bowl, so whatever I've got to do I'm going to do it."

If staying healthy was Goal 1 for the Steelers this spring, getting the young defensive backs a solid base for their first training camp may have been Goal 2.

How did they do?

"They're looking really well," said All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown. "I'm extremely excited about these guys being a part of what we've got going. I think they're going to be a huge asset in helping us in the direction we want to go."

Brown reported a few days late for spring practices, but once he arrived he was often matched against Burns. And beat him often.

"At first he was getting me on routes," said Burns. "Now it's more about playing the ball in the air."

Burns was helped by some tips from Brown.

"I told him, 'Yo, man, you're making things easy. Use your hands. Everybody's fast at this level. Be more combative and get in tune with guys,'" said Brown. "I think he took that and started really learning."

And by the end of the spring?

"He's definitely been growing from this process and getting better," Brown said. "I want him to make it hard for me in practice, so when I get to the game it's easy."

Burns remains a work in progress. While some in the organization felt the draft-day decision-makers "talked themselves into" liking Burns as the long process unfolded, Burns convinced Brown that he has potential.

"He made some great progress not only with me but with the Steelers in helping us long term," Brown said. "He's a great competitor. I think he's going to make for a great player."

Another "rookie" cornerback, Senquez Golson, returned to the practice field Thursday after missing the last few weeks with an unspecified lower body injury.

Golson, of course, was the 2015 second-round pick who spent last season on injured reserve.

At his first training camp next month, Golson will most likely be used inside of Will Gay and Ross Cockrell as a slot corner when the team's not using Davis there.

Davis, at this point, appears to be the rookie who's most likely to play in the opener. The coaching staff showed off its high expectations by putting an abnormal amount of material on his plate this spring.

"It's not easy," Davis said with a laugh. "But they assigned it to me so I'm going to do the best I can at both jobs and learn both positions as fast as I can and get on the field as fast as possible."

A natural safety who spent his senior season at cornerback for Maryland, Davis said, "I am comfortable. I'm not scared to go out there."

He got help this spring from not only the veteran defensive backs, but "even the linebackers. They helped me communicate. It's not just communication within the DBs, it's communication within all 11. We have to be on the same page."

Davis said he could "name all the guys on the field" as his mentors, and that "I knew the Steelers were a hard-nosed, go-get-it football team. It met my expectations. I'm so happy I'm here."


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