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Injuries are hurting competition for Steelers secondary

Artie Burns has missed significant time so far during training camp. Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports

LATROBE, Pa. -- While the rest of the Pittsburgh Steelers practiced Wednesday, five injured or resting defensive backs did toe-touching stretches on an auxiliary field with the rest of the sidelined players.

Half the Steelers secondary -- cornerback Artie Burns and safety Mike Mitchell (lower body injuries) -- has missed significant camp, and starting safety Sean Davis sat out Wednesday's session, too.

Corners Senquez Golson and Cameron Sutton, expected to push for playing time during camp, can barely crack the lineup because of ailments.

All of the injuries are considered minor, but many of those players could miss Friday's preseason opener against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium.

All of this is good news for slot corner Mike Hilton, who has been the camp darling with his playmaking despite a 5-foot-9 frame.

But for a problem position in recent years, the Steelers need all bodies available.

"In some instances it has not been as competitive as we would like," coach Mike Tomlin said. "Hopefully, those guys will get back to us and we can continue with that process. In the meanwhile, though, one man's misfortune has created growth opportunities for others and increased number of reps for others. I like the way that some of those guys are working with the opportunity given."

Not much changes for the starting lineup. Mitchell and Davis will man the safety spots upon return. Burns was having a great camp before the injury, even winning a few battles with Antonio Brown in press-man coverage. Healthy corners William Gay and Ross Cockrell are projected starters.

More depth at corner was supposed to result in more competition for Gay and Cockrell. That hasn't happened, largely because of Sutton's and Golson's availability.

Tomlin acknowledged the Steelers need to see a more robust lineup soon. "There is urgency. I am not going to pretend that there is not urgency in terms of guys being on the field," Tomlin said. "We do not seek comfort because of our continuity in that area. I will just say this: There is big-time urgency. We need guys on the field. Guys need to get on the field."