With Antonio Brown and Jerricho Cotchery dinged up, the Steelers are looking to bring back an old face to boost their depleted receiving corps as they make a playoff push. Yes, Plaxico Burress, he of shooting-himself-in-the-leg-fame, is expected to visit and take a physical with the Steelers. That’s all well and good, but just one question: Who’s gonna be throwing to him? Me?
HAPPY LITTLE RECAP: Burress played the first five years of his career (2000-2004) with the Steelers, where he averaged 833 yards and four touchdowns a season. He spent the next four years with the Giants, bailing out Eli Manning countless times as he tried to find his career footing, and winning Super Bowl XLII. As we know he was out of football for the 2009 and 2010 seasons — taking a prolonged timeout, let’s call it — and came back with the Jets, putting up 612 yards and eight touchdowns on 45 receptions. He is 35 years old and he once shot himself in the leg. I think we’re up to speed now.
This is not a desperate move on the Steelers’ part by any means. Sure, they need to shore up the quarterback position before they do anything else — that includes Mike Tomlin eating breakfast tomorrow — but in fairness, whoever is under center for the Steelers in the coming weeks will need tools. More so, they need security blankets, players who could bail out Charlie Batch or whichever sorry sucker Tomlin goes with, who most certainly won’t be able to extend plays on their own like Ben Roethlisberger — and to a lesser extent, Byron Leftwich — could.
The most notable tools they had to choose from were: Chad Johnson, Terrell Owens, and Burress, and the last was by far and away the smartest choice, assuming his physical works out. Ocho and T.O. both tried their hands at making comebacks over the summer with the Dolphins and Seahawks, respectively. And because of a bevy of off-field headaches from the former and a simple lack of production from the latter, clearly neither of those choices would have worked out. Not to mention, both would have been prone to creating on-the-field headaches, which surprisingly, Burress has produced very little of over the course of his career. In fact, he’s been as close to “consummate teammate” as you can get, comfortably playing opposite Hines Ward in Pittsburgh, Part 1, and having no problem being the man with the Giants.
Shooting yourself in the leg is a boneheaded move, but I’m actually willing to look past that, considering he stayed out of trouble both on and off the field in New York last season, despite the clusterfuck that is the Jets locker room.
And of course, there’s the familiarity. Burress spent five years in Pittsburgh, and though the offensive supporting cast is mostly different, including the head coach, the culture remains the same. There doesn’t seem to be any animostiy between the Steel City and Burress, seeing as the Steelers went on and won two Super Bowls after he departed. That works the other way too, taking into account Burress’ championship with the Giants.
But the biggest reason of all that this is the right move for the Steelers is that Burress can still produce. The Jets starved him of looks, and with more targets, especially in the red zone, he surely wouldn’t have had the statistical drop off he did coming out of prison. Whoever is playing quarterback for the Steelers going forward won’t be much better than Mark Sanchez, true, but at least the Steelers know what they’re working with. The 6-foot-5 Burress is still a red zone threat, and can use his size to go up and get throws that will be too high, too wide, or behind a smaller wideout.
Whoever is commandeering the offense for the Steelers will be happy to have him, and if you’re a Steelers fan, you should be too.
[ESPN.com, Getty Images]