Plaxico Burress, Pittsburgh Steelers headed for reunion
The Steelers may not sport their bumblebee throwbacks Sunday in Cleveland, but they still plan to kick it a little old school. With Byron Leftwich and Ben Roethlisberger ailing, 37-year-old quarterback Charlie Batch will make just his eighth start since 2002. And it appears that he will be throwing passes to a familiar target: Plaxico Burress.
Burress, a free agent since his contract with the Jets expired after 2011, signed with Pittsburgh on Tuesday, his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, confirmed on Twitter. The Steelers find themselves in need of wide receiver help due to injuries to Antonio Brown and Jerricho Cotchery.
Burress made 45 catches for 612 yards and eight touchdowns last season in New York, his first after serving an 18-month prison stint. He was the Steelers’ first pick in the 2000 draft (No. 8 overall), then put up more than 4,000 yards receiving for them before leaving to join the Giants in 2005.
How much does he have left in the tank?
Judging from the utter lack of interest he stirred up in free agency, the consensus around the league seems to be: not much. Burress also brings the red flags consistent with a guy who shot himself in the leg and then headed to jail and was later rumored to be part of the Jets’ locker room turmoil.
However, he turned in a better-than-expected 2011, even as he reportedly questioned Mark Sanchez’s ability. His longest catch last season was just 30 yards and he had a measly 3.5 YAC (yards after catch) average, but his 6-foot-5 size continues to make him a weapon in the red zone.
He has a chance to stick with the Steelers, too, at least for the rest of the season. Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that Cotchery is out indefinitely with multiple rib fractures, suffered in Sunday’s loss to Baltimore, and Brown remains at less than 100 percent with an ankle injury. Mike Wallace also continues to underachieve — he had a costly fumble in Week 11, then failed to stay inbounds on what would might have been a game-changing touchdown.
In other words, the Steelers need a proven receiver who can make some plays.
Burress clearly is on the downside of his career and he won’t be a piece that puts Pittsburgh over the top in the AFC, but he has been through the ringer enough to be somewhat reliable … assuming he wants to be.
Pittsburgh also added quarterback Brian Hoyer to serve as Batch’s backup this weekend. Hoyer spent three seasons behind Tom Brady in New England, only to be released in September. Somewhat surprisingly, he passed through waivers unclaimed and then languished unsigned on the free-agent market.
He’s a fail-safe for the Steelers in Week 11, in case Batch becomes the third Pittsburgh QB hurt in three games. Pittsburgh is still holding out hope that Roethlisberger can return in Week 12 for a rematch with Baltimore; either way, Pittsburgh may hold onto Hoyer just in case.