Burns gets his feet wet

CHARLOTTE - Artie Burns had to wait until the finale at Carolina to finally see the field this preseason, but once he got there he saw plenty.
And that was what Burns was hoping for all along.

"Just get my hands on a couple balls, make a couple of tackles," he said after the Steelers' 18-6 loss to the Panthers on Thursday night at Bank of America Stadium.

"I was out there with my team and my guys, showing everybody what I can do. It felt real good to be out there again."

Burns started at cornerback and played the first two quarters.

A bad angle by Burns contributed to running back Cameron Artis-Payne darting around left end for 15 yards late in the first quarter.

And Burns allowed a 12-yard completion to wide receiver Keyarris Garret on second-and-10 from the Steelers' 41-yard line in the second quarter.

But the Steelers' No. 1 pick was also able to help limit that Carolina drive to just three points with a diving pass defensed on third-and-7 from the Steelers' 10, a play that almost resulted in Burns' first interception.

"I gotta get my ball skills better," he said.

Game action from the Steelers' 2016 preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers.

Burns also broke up a subsequent throw to the goal line with a well-timed hit on Garret.

Perhaps most significantly, he reported no issues with the quad injury that had nagged him throughout training camp.

"I'm healthy, real healthy," Burns said.

The question now involves what type of role he'll be able to assume in the regular season.

"I really don't know," Burns said. "I have to take it day by day, come to work every day and see what my role is going to be."

Head coach Mike Tomlin was glad to see Burns take a significant step just before the preseason  came to an end.

"It was important for him to play because he hadn't," Tomlin said. "It was good to see him go through a process of game readiness and go out there and execute.

"Hopefully, he can check off some of the boxes that go along with playing and focus on what's real next week."

ARGUMENT COMPLETED: Seventh-round pick Tyler Matakevich's last statement toward securing a roster spot at inside linebacker included a hard tackle of wide receiver LaRon Byrd on a 12-yard punt return in the second quarter.

Matakevich was in on four tackles on defense and two on special teams.

"I did everything I could," Matakevich said. "I learned a lot this preseason from 'Jerry O' (inside linebackers coach Jerry Olsavsky), (Lawrence) Timmons, (Ryan) Shazier, all these guys.

"Hopefully, I did enough. I gave everything I had."

Matakevich said he's felt capable of playing at this level since the first week of camp.

"At the end of the day you just play football," he said. "You can't get caught up in the moment. You just have to relax, take a deep breath and play the play.

"I've been dreaming about this since I was a little kid. I was in a great position in a great organization. I feel like I did everything I could."

AT HOME IN THE SLOT: Wide receiver Eli Rogers worked as the No. 1 slot receiver and expects to be doing so when the regular season kicks off on Sept. 12 against the Redskins.

"I just came out and put everything on film consistently," Rogers said of his preseason. "I just came in, worked hard, got better every day and gained some type of trust with (quarterback) Ben (Roethlisberger) and the coaching staff."

For Rogers, an undrafted free agent from Louisville in 2015 who spent last season on the injured reserve list after suffering a foot injury in early August, an anticipated roster spot is just the beginning.

"I already knew this was going to happen," he said. "For it to happen right now and come to fruition, it's a blessing. But at the end of the day I knew.

"It's a great feeling but I'm ready to move on next week and prepare."  

HE SAID IT: "All you can really ask for is an opportunity to get on the field. From Day One I've had that opportunity. I was here for OTAs and all of training camp this year instead of coming in after the third preseason game last year. I'm a lot more comfortable with the scheme and a lot more prepared. I did everything I could, I'm feeling good." _ Linebacker L.J. Fort on whether he did enough this preseason to make the team.

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